One down, three to go…

I am teaching four garment construction retreats this fall, the first is finished, I just returned from a six day class in Harrisville, NH, home of Harrisville Designs.  I love teaching there, I had a particularly delightful class, they all got along well, helped each other, were supportive of each other, and all pledged to come back next year.  And they really really worked hard.  One of the advantages to places like this and like Sievers in Wisconsin (trip number 3) is that students can work well in to the night.  Some of my students are early morning risers, and they can start at 6am, and many of them don’t get cranking until after dinner.  It wasn’t unusual for me to stay and cheer them on until 11pm at night.  

Anyway, I had 12 students, four of them were repeaters, so they kind of worked on their own agenda.  Carole and Jane made garments from my patterns…  Both from handwovens…  Jane tried the new button down placket version of my tunic, with in seam buttonholes.

Amy and Rita brought their own patterns and Amy’s 1st jacket and both of Rita’s jackets were from handwoven.  

Tracey is a felter, and brought some felt laminate (wool felted onto silk) panels she made, and created a swing coat using the “living” edge of the felt as hems and borders.  I always called it the organic natural edge of the felt, but I like her term better.  She also had time to create my new swing dress/jumper from a commercial raw silk she brought along as plan B.

Sally and Polly made swing coats.  Both are handwoven, and Polly was a little further behind because she brought a plaid.  A handwoven plaid, and of course in a handwoven plaid, nothing matches up even though it was woven thread perfect.  She spent a lot of hours at the cutting table.  I cannot wait to see this one finished.

Leslie and Roberta made regular jackets, Leslie of course spent many extra hours cutting out her commercial plaid, she did a wonderful job, but ran out of time for things like bands and sleeves!  Roberta worked well into the evenings and was able to mostly finish hers. Roberta’s fabric is a gorgeous handwoven from Tencel.

And I had so much fun with Dee-Dee.  She wove a gorgeous mock leno wool fabric from combining Harrisville Shetland and Highland yarns.  There were a few challenging moments, and she added a very cool design to the pocket, but her tenacity showed and she got most of the jacket completed by the sixth day.

Betty turns out, worked for me many years ago, in the 1980’s when I did craft fairs, it was good to reconnect with her.  She brought commercial wool and made a terrific version of my collared zip vest, with a little assistance in the evenings!

And Peggy, I’ve known for many years, she regularly exhibits her work at conferences and is a pretty terrific garment maker and a heck of a weaver.  She brought a whole box full of things to work on, from tweaking the fit on garments she had already made, to creating one of my collared zip vests.  It was a joy to work with her as well.

And so  here is the class of Fall 2019 at Harrisville, taken a day early because a couple only stayed for the five days and didn’t need to take advantage of the extra sixth day.  The friendships that developed really showed, and I was very proud of this class.  

Peggy took a fun shot of me teaching during one of the lectures, I almost never have photos of me!

And for those that are interested, my five Handwoven Magazine webinars on Garment construction have found their new home through Long Thread Media.  Links to each of the five webinars can be found on my schedule page.  

And my latest video is up on Threads Magazine.  This one is included in their free essentials video series, it is all about stay stitching, something every weaver should memorize and anyone who sews garments should be aware of and be proficient at…

Trip number two of four is coming up fast, this one to the opposite corner of the US, Whidbey Island.

Stay tuned…

Shutting down the rumor mill…

Word gets out fast, and it isn’t always accurate.

So first, let me say that I’m not giving up teaching.  I like to teach, I adore my students and I’m looking forward to developing new patterns and new techniques for them.

What I don’t want to do anymore are conferences. And not because I can’t deal with another conference tote bag, I probably have about 100…

Let me explain.

This was the Pearls Before Swine comic in yesterday’s paper when I sat down to have my breakfast yesterday morning.  It really explains where my head is at…

I just returned from the Mid Atlantic Fiber Association Conference in Millersville, PA.  Typically regional conferences are held at college campuses, mostly for cost reasons.  And typically they work well for a venue like this.  The MAFA conference was a large success from what I’ve seen, and the feedback I heard, and the posts on social media I’ve seen.  It came on the heels of Midwest, which was held in Iowa, and ANWG which was held the week before that in Prince George, BC.  There were instructors who taught at all three.  And I understand that NEWS, the regional conference in NE is right around the corner.  I have done all of these conferences, though this year, I only applied and was accepted to teach at MAFA.  Thank God.

As I was sitting in traffic for the long three plus hour drive there, (actually it was short compared to what many of the participants had to endure) I thought hard about what I was feeling and why.  30 years ago this coming December I remember feeling extreme burnout, my attitude about everything was in the toilet, I was cranky and tired and I was also 8 months pregnant.  I struggled to get through my last craft fair.  After an amazing ten year run, in 1989 I had decided I’d had enough, and I stopped applying to craft fairs.  Actually I had made this decision in 1988, but when you book a year or two in advance, once you make the decision not to apply anymore, you have to see through everything you’ve already promised to do.  Because that’s how I work.  I made the commitment and I only ever had to cancel twice in my life, once when I went in to have a mastectomy, and the second time when my husband died.  I’ve taught through the flu, chemo, my husband in intensive care, I’ve taught through a ruptured ovarian cyst, and back pain issues.  I’ve had fevers, I’ve had missing bags and stomach viruses, but the show must go on.  

Guild work, or small venues like Harrisville or Sievers allows more personal attention to the instructor.  I know I sound like a diva, and maybe at this point in my life I’ve earned that right, but I left craft fairs 30 years ago, and though I missed the camaraderie of the other artists, I never once regretted the decision.  My attitude had gotten so bad I no longer wanted to weave.  I don’t want that to happen again, but see the writing on the wall.  I am in demand more than ever, and looking at my in box and all the request for guild venues while I was at the MAFA conference, starting in 2021 just made me scared.

Conferences themselves are hard on the instructors.  Yes, the participants are often dragging looms, and disabled attendees have to navigate buildings that are accessible but often require traveling around campus in very convoluted routes to find ramps and elevators.  There is always a lot of walking, to the dorms, to the dining hall, to the classroom and back.  MAFA was one of the easier conferences to navigate, it wasn’t very hilly.  But walk and haul I did.  I carry a lot of baggage, and it is quite different backing up to a building where you are teaching and having the staff help you unload, when you are the only teacher vs 400 conference participants and 50 – 75 instructors.  Everyone needs help.  The volunteers who help with loading in and loading out are saints.  And of course there is also the vendor hall.  And the installation of exhibits.  Conference coordinators have a reserved place in heaven, it is a thankless job, they are pushed beyond limits and there is always someone who isn’t happy.  I remember attending Convergence Rhode Island a few years ago with my daughter in tow.  I wasn’t teaching.  I drove around the state looking at all the fibery exhibits and got a one day pass to the conference.  It was amazing and non stressful and inspiring but I was so grateful I wasn’t participating.  

All of my teacher friends’ social media sites are lighting up with the news that they have been accepted to teach at the next Convergence in Knoxville.  There are new faces just breaking into the scene, and many seasoned veterans.  I never applied.  I looked at all their enthusiasm and was so pleased for all of them but so grateful I didn’t apply.  I was hugely relieved.

Saturday night, towards the end of the conference, I woke up on my plastic covered dorm mattress and felt that dreaded twinge, my sciatic was acting up again.  I had a restless night and it went downhill from there.  That’s twice in the last month and a half.  It is hard to stand upright and hard to haul stuff.  It is hard to sit in a car for three plus hours home, and hard to sit at the computer answering all the email requests for future work.  And I also came home to more than $500 worth of orders for books and interfacings from my eShop.  So I painfully sat at the computer all day yesterday printing and binding and packing.  Typically my wonderful office assistant would do this, but she closed on her home yesterday and has moved away.  I am alone. And missing her terribly.   But I carried on…

I only have two weeks before the next venue, a five day yardage class at Peters Valley.  I love the Valley and am looking forward to teaching in the new weaving studio, but I need the full two weeks of prep.  Right now I work an hour, rest an hour and work another hour.  The animals never leave my side.

So the bottom line is I’m done with conferences.  I recognize burn out, I’ve been down this road before.  I will really miss sitting on a plastic dorm mattress with my fellow instructors talking about the things that are important to us, plastic water bottles full of wine, just like I really missed getting together with the other exhibiting artists in craft fairs after I stopped.  I have made some life long friends in this business, but my life has changed drastically since my husband’s death three years ago, and I’m now responsible for all of it.  I want to weave and paint and play music and write articles and teach on my terms.

My beloved suitcase didn’t survive the trip, actually it didn’t survive the Boise debacle, which I think I talked about a couple of posts ago, and so, as I was packing to go, I researched replacement suitcases and what I needed just isn’t made anymore. I refuse to use suitcases with spinney wheels.  The best I could do was a 29″ Pullman from REI.  It is narrower than the one it is replacing, but well made and guaranteed.  I’m hoping I can still fit 70 pounds of clothing into it.

I only took one photo while I was on the road.  I took a quick snapshot of the class, there were sixteen of them, and they were all wonderfully incredible and enthusiastic.  The class was called Custom Fit and Fabulous.  They learned how to fit their bodies and particular fit issues, while trying on my loaded suitcase full of samples in all sizes.  They traced patterns until they were cross eyed.  With an aching back, I lectured for a couple hours on Sunday morning and there were really wonderful responses from what they learned.  It is a terrific class for a 2 1/2 day format, typical of a conference.  

On of the conference attendees walked around the studio walk through Saturday night where all the instructors in their classrooms talked about what they were teaching, she got this shot of me selling my little heart out! Thanks Alison!

And I debuted my new silhouette, the swing dress, which is now out in the latest Threads Magazine, I believe issue 204, mine was waiting at the post office when I went in today to get my mail.  I drafted the dress in all sizes, wrote the handout, and crossed my fingers.  Everyone who tried it on seemed to love the fit, minor tweaks for some, but I’m so happy I nailed it.

I know I keep getting letters as to why I don’t offer my patterns for sale.  And I keep trying to explain that it isn’t that simple.  The venue for me to offer digital downloadable patterns doesn’t yet exist for me.  It will take me a couple of years to scan everything, and convert to vector drawings and then convert to a downloadable size PDF.  That is a huge goal, but not possible while I’m on the road all the time.  And I’d love to have a video archive.  I had so much fun shooting videos for Threads Insider last fall, I’d love to have a group of my own, short videos on weaving and sewing techniques for weavers.  But I can’t do that while I’m on the road teaching all the time.

And so, yes, I’ll continue to teach, to go where I’m asked, but no, I’m not doing conferences anymore and yes, I’m in talks with Montana about their short gathering next summer, because it is still easy to twist my arm…  

Stay tuned…

Uh Oh, empty looms again…

Actually, in spite of an epidemic of empty looms again, this was a fantastic week so far.  Like the planets aligned…  You know when you work on something really really hard, and finally, finally it comes to fruition?  I had a whole bunch of things finish up and birth themselves right into the stratosphere in the last 48 hours.

First off, last October I mentioned that I had shot a whole string of videos for Threads Magazine for their Insider subscription service.  Actually it is a great service, $19.95 a year for unlimited viewing of their archive of videos on sewing and fit related topics.  My group will slowly be added that archive over the next few months, but the first one was released yesterday.  I watched it today and it was really spot on.  I did a good job.  I covered everything that needed to be said about the topic and the editing was smooth and clean.  This video shows how to cut and piece bias strips.  You can subscribe to Insider and view it here.  Thank you Threads!

Also released yesterday was the latest issue of Heddlecraft Magazine.  Many of you know how hard I worked over the last few months on this 30 page article.  I felt like I had done a Master’s Thesis…  This lengthy article is on a topic near and dear to my heart, one I explored in my early days of craft fairs back in the 1980’s, called Doup Leno.  It is a way of crossing threads back and forth to create a loom controlled lace fabric.  Heddlecraft Magazine is available in digital format only.  You can subscribe here

I needed to get an image of the piece I am submitting for the summer faculty exhibit Making Matters: Fresh Perspectives in Fine Craft at Peters Valley, by the weekend.  The work doesn’t have to be finished by then, but you can’t take a photo of that which does not exist.  So my 36″ 8 shaft Tools of the Trade loom is now empty and the fabric is drying…  This is a mixed warp in a combination weave with supplemental warps, some of it is hand dyed, and the yarns are mostly cotton and rayon.  The weft is 3 ply worsted wool from my stash.  

My new rule in the house, with so many looms, is that once a loom has been cleared, whoever cleared it has to oil/wax it (I use Howard’s Feed and Wax) and tighten all the bolts and screws.  My loom looks so happy and refreshed…

Also due this week is a scarf which I promised to donate to The Shakespeare Theatre of NJ for their Annual Gala silent auction.  I adore this organization and gave them one for their fundraiser last year, and I’ll be attending the gala this April and am pleased to donate another scarf.  Which meant I had to weave off all five.  Which means another loom is empty.  But it is also very happy because it has been cleaned and waxed and all the bolts and screws have been tightened.  It is looking fresh and cheery for another warp. (There are only four scarves in the photo because I made it to the post office with five minutes to spare, the fifth one is on its way to The Shakespeare Theatre.)

And last night, I sat by the fire and finished a lovely cable knit vest, I had been worried I wouldn’t have enough yarn, but I knit as fast as I could and turns out I beat the yarn fairies…  This vest is Berroco Artisan Merino and Silk.  I picked up a half dozen skeins last fall at Sievers, on sale because the yarn is discontinued.  The yarn is butter smooth and so pretty.  The vest is one I’ve made before.  It is a Drops Design, 123-10 waistcoat.  It is actually a free pattern from Garn Studio.  I started this vest last fall, sometime after I taught at Sievers, so again, it is funny that I finished it last night as well.  It is still drying on top of the washer.

And about 10 days ago, my lovely daughter went on a mission to pick up yet another loom.  They are finding us.  I don’t know why.  If you Google Tools of the Trade Looms, my name comes up.  Probably because between my daughter and I, we now own 10.  I bought my first one back in 1978.  I mention them a lot in my blogs.  They aren’t made anymore, but it is a solid versatile jack type loom that has stood the test of time, solid rock maple, unless you find one in cherry, and you can’t kill them.  I sent my daughter down to Bedminster NJ to pick up a lovely 8 shaft 25″ wide table loom, a great teaching loom and perfect for workshops.  She (the loom,  not my daughter) joins two other looms that size, one a four shaft and the other a fraternal twin in cherry.  I had to do some tweaking, restore some of the parts, and I’m about to add heddles to the back four shafts, but it looks in good working order and it seems happy with the crew.  Incidently, I have received word on two other Tools of the Trade looms that are needing homes and my daughter is all over it.  I do not know where these looms will all fit, it is clear that we are building inventory to open some kind of school or teaching venue, but that’s far down the road and I can’t even fathom that right now.  I’m happy meeting my deadlines.  FYI, between us right now we own 29 shaft looms. 15 Structos three of which are 8 shaft, two Leclerc 10″ 4 shaft looms, a 12 shaft Leclerc Dorothy, a folding Ashford Table Loom, 8 shafts, and of course, the 10 Tools of the Trade Looms. We win…

Stay tuned…

Its Ironical…

My late husband would always get embarrassed and annoyed when he thought I used a word incorrectly or when he thought a word I used didn’t actually exist.  In my field we make up a lot of words, because there just isn’t the vocabulary in the English language.  And when I use a made up word in one of my lectures, somehow the participants know exactly what I mean.  Anyway, early on before Google and smart phones, when we relied on a dictionary for assistance, I used the word ‘ironical’ occasionally.  My husband would get annoyed with me, because he said it wasn’t a word and the word was ironic and I needed to learn that.  Of course when someone corrects you it is easy to shut down and be humiliated, especially in front of others.  I had often thought I had a decent command of the English language, went to Catholic school for 8 years, knew how to diagram sentences, was an excellent speller, and had a college degree.  It wasn’t until I started writing for Handwoven Magazine that I found out I could really write, and my confidence soared.  

Of course I stopped using the word ‘ironical’, and it wasn’t until just recently that the word popped back into my head and I just grabbed my little smart phone, went into Google and Ha!  Not only is it a word, it is a great word, used more in Britain than the US, but according to, something that is ironical is wryly funny, especially because it doesn’t match up with your expectations.  

And that is the whole basis for this blog post.  Its ironical…

Back in October I recorded a podcast with the staff of Threads Magazine, episode 13, you can listen/watch it here, and the theme of the podcast among other topics is “Sewing for Competition”.  I said a lot of things in the podcast, especially about getting into exhibitions, and all that entails, and one of the things I wanted to really stress was how arbitrary judging can be, having judged many many competitions, and that not getting into a competition doesn’t really mean that your work isn’t worthy.  I gave lots of tips and suggestions, but I did say at one point that I could wall paper my living room with all the rejections I’ve received over the years, and that my acceptance to rejection ration is about 1:6.  My handwoven clothing over the years has become more predictable getting into shows, though it isn’t always a guarantee, but my fiber art work has an abysmal track record.  

There was an unusually large amount of opportunities this past few months for participation in fiber art exhibitions, and a number of platforms that got the word out.  Social media really helps.  So I dutifully sent in my money, and the requisite images and waited.  And sometimes even forgot I applied.

And then suddenly, to my complete surprise, I got in.  To all of them.  Its ironical!  And the success certainly didn’t match up with my expectations.  So now, this week I’m scrambling to prep and ship out all sorts of work including three pieces for photography for my next article for Threads Magazine, they went out this morning.


Peters Valley Craft Center is sponsoring this show, bridging craftsmanship and technology.  I applied at the last minute, partly because they didn’t mind older work.  One of the things I talked about in the podcast was the timeliness of the work.  Most exhibits require work that is less than two years old.  And you can’t apply to two different shows with the same work if they overlap.  It is professional suicide to get into a show and then decline because the piece got into another show that occurs at the same time.    

“Nuance: Craftsmanship, Imagination and Innovation” 2019  Peters Valley School of Craft, The Sally D. Francisco Gallery, Layton, NJ Jurors: Maegen Black, Director Canadian Crafts Federation and Sin-ying Ho, Ceramist, Assistant Professor, Queens College, City University of NY.  This show runs April 13th to May 19th.

The work that was accepted was an older piece that fit the theme of the exhibition, called Margaret.  The images of my mother in law at 20 juxtaposed to her at 90 are printed on silk and then cut into strips and rewoven into a diptych.

“Fantastic Fibers 2019” Yeiser Art Center, Paducah, KY Juror: Pauline Verbeek-Cowart, chair of the Fiber Department Kansas City Art Institute

This show runs from April 20th – June 8th.  The work that was accepted is one of my most favorite pieces of artwork I’ve done in the last few years, and no one has seen it because it has not gotten into any of the exhibits I entered with it, and it is nearing the end of its two year shelf life.  The piece is layers of hand dyed wool, wet felted, sliced and needle felted onto a felt backing, and then stitched on the machine.  It is called e·vis·cer·ate: verb, deprive of vital or essential content.


“Color: Classic to Contemporary” 2019 The Hudgens Center for Art and Learning, Duluth, GA sponsored by the Chattahoochee Handweavers Guild  Juror: Kathrin Weber

I found out about this exhibit through social media, and sent my regular garments/yardage images.  These two works both got accepted and the show runs from May 11 – July 27th  The duster coat is called Autumn Patchwork, and the yardage is called Chaos.

“Transformation: Fiber as Medium on The Common Thread Gallery” 2019 online exhibit Common Thread Gallery  Juror: Penny Griffin Lutz is the Director of The Gallery at Penn College Williamsport, Pennsylvania

This exhibit is a digital online exhibition.   The exhibition runs April 5th – August 15th. Click on the link above to view.  

 e·vis·cer·ate: verb, deprive of vital or essential content.


“Excellence in Fibers IV juried exhibition in print” 2018-19 sponsored by The Fiber Art Network  Jurors: Beth Mclaughlin, Head Curator Fuller Craft Museum; Perry Price, Executive Director Houston Center for Contemporary Craft; Carol Sauvion, Creator, Exec Producer and Director of Craft in America

This exhibit is currently in print, and it was really wonderful seeing my work among some pretty outstanding works in fiber.

“New Directions in Fiber Art” 2019 New Jersey Arts Annual-Crafts, Montclair Art Museum, Montclair, NJ Jurors: Carol K. Russell and Judy Wukitsch

I talked about this exhibit already because I wasn’t able to attend the opening, I was teaching in southern California.  I finally got to actually see the exhibit a couple of weeks ago, and took a couple photos of the installation of my work.  The work they accepted out of the 8 submitted was not one of my favorites of the group, but the judge obviously saw something else and I was thrilled.  The piece is part of my Chromosome series, and it is called 44+XY.  The show runs from February 9-June 16.  


I have been to the land where it is sunny and warm, if only for a long weekend, I flew down to Orlando about 10 days ago, and absorbed the sun, what there was of it, it mostly rained, and saw some pretty azaleas and tropical plants, some gorgeous views of Lake Yale, and taught a wonderful pre conference four hour class in Turned Krokbragd on the Inkle Loom.  I had 16 eager students and they all produced this wonderful little sample.

One of my most favorite students was standing in front of me in the lunch line.  I remember her making this the last time I taught in Florida, but I never got to see it finished.  Wow, just wow.

And then I taught my weekend class, Fabulous Fit, where students tried on my samples and had a tracing marathon.  They learned so much about fit and how handwoven fabric works, and I got lots of emails and thanks after I got home for opening their eyes to the possibilities.  I did my job!  Of course, I didn’t take a single photo because I was too busy helping participants!  Picture the image above, but instead of looms, there were patterns and pattern tracing paper everywhere!  

Back to prepping and shipping artwork, taxes on Thursday, bills due Friday, and I have to clear one of my looms by April 1 so I can photograph the yardage for the next exhibit at Peters Valley which is the faculty show.  Since I’m on the faculty there this summer, well, of course I have to put something in.  I’ve run out of yardage to display there, and so I wove something new.  Meanwhile, the big news in this house is that Brianna, my lovely creative daughter, whom I talked about in the last blog post, was accepted as the Fiber Assistant for the summer at Peters Valley, from May through October.  She will live out there and assist with all the fiber classes.  And I’ll be teaching a yardage class this summer, and I just adore when I open a magazine and there in full color and all its glory is a photo of me and my illustrious students!

Stay tuned…