Simple days, complex world…

The days pass quickly in a routine that is pretty pleasant truth be told.  I’m not missing traveling, not missing even leaving the house.  I see friends and family enough via zoom, and with all the remote lectures I’m giving, I feel as though I’ve just attended the world’s largest weaving conference.  Each day I bounce around to some part of the country, and each lecture there are old friends and familiar faces in those tiny boxes on the screen.  I’ve been corresponding with someone in MO, who was supposed to take a workshop with me in August in Kansas, but appeared in a lecture in western MA.  We weavers get around…

Having my daughter here, working with her, developing new content, shooting a new video every Friday for my YouTube site The Weaver Sews.  It has kept us busy.  The biggest challenges are keeping the animals quiet, and hoping the landscape people don’t come through in the middle of filming the way they did last Wednesday in the middle of a class I was teaching remotely.  Those leaf blowers right outside the garage doors were pretty noisy.

So the election in the US is Tuesday.  I don’t hold hope that things will be resolved by Tuesday night.  I don’t hold hope that things will be resolved for a very long time, no matter who is declared the winner.  I’m sad for the polarization, I’m sad for the divisive language used by both sides, I wish we could all get along and move forward.  We are in the middle of a couple of international crises and I’m a firm supporter of science (having a daughter with a science degree means I can’t even cook without a science perspective thrown into the recipe), and no matter the results, I hope moving forward that we as a nation can come together to solve some of these major issues.  I’ve just heard of another weaver who lost their entire studio to one of the fires in Oregon.  She took a workshop with me just in March of this year, my last stint before the world shut down.  I sent her digital files of everything we could piece together that she lost from my workshop, but that doesn’t replace yarn, samples, looms, weaving equipment, spinning wheels, and a life time of knowledge in physical form.  My friends in California, Oregon, Washington, as well as Louisiana have taken the brunt of this year’s climate disasters.  I wish the world had a plan moving forward.  For me, I voted within 24 hours of receiving my mail in ballot (only mail-in voting in NJ this year because of the pandemic), so on Tuesday night, I’ll be teaching remotely for a guild in Toronto.  I can only do my best to keep moving forward, being kind, paying attention to the science, fighting for equality for all, and embracing my countrymen no matter what and who they are passionate about.

Since  Tuesday night’s lecture is on Doup Leno, a technique I wrote about a couple years ago for Heddlecraft Magazine, (January/February 2019), I needed to have something set up for a live demo.  The warp that I had been using was mostly used up.  So I rewarped this week, with a couple of handdyed skeins of cashmere I had sitting around, one a dark and the other a variegated turquoise.  The goal is a couple of scarves, the leno structure will keep them lacy, but the structure will hold together.

That said, I’ve been rather busy with my simple days.  Simple means I can fill my days up with juggling 40 things at once, because I can’t imagine a day when 40 things aren’t happening simultaneously!  

I’ve been working for the last couple of weeks on a new project.  The last two vests I made both had welt pockets.  It has been on my to do eventually list for a couple of years.  I finally sat down, designed a diagonal entry welt pocket and then once I did a few of them, drew illustrations and wrote up the 12 page directions.

Now you can actually purchase the Welt Pocket Variation as a download.  The download contains the 12 page heavily illustrated directions, the two pattern pieces full size for the welt and pocket, and replacement pages for the 100 jacket, 200 jacket and 800 vest.  By substituting the pages in the pattern digital files, you’ll see where the pocket goes.  So if you’ve purchased the 100, 200 or 800 vest, you might enjoy this variation.  Of course it will work for any jacket or vest you make from anyone’s patterns, you’ll just have to figure out where to position it.

The second vest I finished is the one I’ve been using for demonstrations during my last few YouTube videos.  The fabric was a remnant I bought somewhere, can’t remember, but it was a gorgeous sleezy Chanel type tweed, really challenging to work with, like your worst case handwoven.  My handwoven fabrics aren’t nearly as challenging!  I made up the 200 jacket but left off the sleeves, bringing the lining to the edge of the armhole.  With the shawl collar and welt pockets, it is a much different look than my other vests.  

I realized of course that I haven’t updated my gallery on the website with the last couple of pieces I’ve made, the Summer Rain Top, and of course the leopard trimmed and lined Confetti vest shown above.  It is much more important to be timely in those updates because my daughter references those details and images when she creates the show notes for each video I do.  We took one of our guest rooms, since we aren’t getting a lot of guests (none actually) and turned it into a temporary photo studio.  So I popped the Summer Rain top onto the dressform, and perched it on top of the table to take a quick shot of the top.  The free draft for the fabric for this top, using Silk City Fibers is available here.  The pattern is a combination of my 1000 Swing Dress, very modified to take out the “swing”, and the armhole and sleeve from my 200 Jacket.

Meanwhile, now that all my looms are full, I filled them up for the HGA remote studio tour the beginning of October, I need to start clearing looms because I’m getting more ideas of stuff I want to weave.  So I cleared one of the table looms first.  This one had a test for Silk City Fibers, their Supermerino yarn, sett in an 8 dent reed, plain weave, to simulate what one would experience with a rigid heddle loom set up.  One was a single end in an 8 dent reed, single weft, spaced a little far apart for my taste, but that was the point of the test.  I gave that one to Silk City and kept this one, which is two ends together in an 8 dent reed with a doubled weft (I used a double boat shuttle for that scarf).  Supermerino is a superwash yarn.  It doesn’t say that in the description, but it doesn’t full at all when washed.  The result is actually quite soft and lovely, and I’m glad they let me keep one of the scarves.  I suspect I’ll be venturing outside a bit this winter, if only to walk the property and pick up dog debris, and I think this will be quite warm.

I did a round robin sort of day earlier in the week, I wove a yard of two on each of the other floor looms, just to get them moving forward.  I can probably just sit and weave and finish off a couple of them in a day or two.  To have time to just sit and weave is such a gift.  And that means I’ll have yardage to sew.  And empty looms to rewarp…

There is this one, which has been on the loom for way too long.  The yarn is Noro Taiyo Lace, a pain to work with but really beautiful in its gradient effect as the weft.  4 shaft, warp is vintage Harrisville singles Shetland wool and vintage Maypole Nehalem worsted.  I’ve probably got less than two yards to go…

This is another test for Silk City Fibers, their new Cotton Bambu yarn mixed with their Chenille Tapestry yarn.  I modified an 8 shaft shadow weave draft, it is a bit slow to weave because of the two shuttle complicated repeat but it is moving along nicely.  

And this one is also using Silk City Fibers, their new Nile cotton tape mixed with Skinny Majesty variegated.  The weft is their Wool Crepe.  I can’t wait to weave off this fabric, it is weaving like butter and I want to make swing dress out of it. Over a black turtleneck, this could be fun for winter, something new to wear, even though I don’t go anywhere and only dress for the upper third of my body for remote Zoom meetings.  And for the videos, I get to dress up, put on makeup and look remotely professional, but everything has to be 2-piece to support the remote microphone pack clipped into my waistband.

Days are cooler now, we have finally had frost in NJ.  I cuddle up with the gas stove in the living room, and a 1000 piece puzzle and some wine in the evenings, or watch late night political satire on the TV with my daughter.  We need to keep laughing, we need to surround ourselves with art, humor and good food and drink.  And of course animals, there is a cat asleep on my lap as I type, with one paw draped over my typing hand.  And yarn and good books.  I have all of that, and new flannel sheets coming this week from LLBean.  My daughter stole my other set.  Life is OK for now in my small neck of the world.  I quietly keep making up new stuff, and keep an eye out for important things to know about.  

See you all on the other side of this election, stay safe, wear a mask, and don’t forget to vote…

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…

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…”

Stop the presses…

My debut column for Weavezine, the online Weaving magazine, has just gone live!  This is going to be a monthly column, called The Weaver Sews, and I’m really excited to be writing again on a regular basis for a Weaving publication.

Meanwhile, I’m frantically trying to rewarp a 900 end warp for a series of demos tomorrow, at an elementary school in a neighboring town.  And I need to pack up the spinning wheel and all related Where Do Fibers Come From debris…  It’s going to be a long night…

Stay tuned…