Quarantine recap…

I’ve talked to so many people who secretly admit to loving the simplicity of being at home and enjoying what little treasures life has to give.  It is no secret that though financially it is tough having all of my work cancelled, I’ve been able to make use of the time, creating new work, and developing digital product.  There are enough Zoom meetings a week, to keep me connected with knitting, weaving, and critique groups, and now a free artist lecture series at Peters Valley every Friday night, that I feel like I’m still part of a bigger whole.  I’ve had friends come and sit on the deck and play recorders, and we have enjoyed the gardens, the weather, and just the simplicity of being together.  I have not been out of the house except for a couple of runs to the post office, and the eye doctor and the dentist since March 15.  I’m not complaining…

I’ve always done my own photography, I sort of have a degree in it, I’m not a novice around a camera, and early on in my career, I invested in a set of used strobe lighting and decent equipment, which after all these years, I’m grateful is still going strong.  It has been on my “list” to do a photo shoot, long overdue, of all the work I’ve done recently, along with my daughter’s work, all of her knitted dragon shawls and cowls.  She has those photos, so I won’t include them here, but suffice it to say we worked from about 10 am until about midnight, and shot more than 600 photos between the two of us.  This is the first time using my office as the photo studio;  prior to that I always spent a couple hours cleaning out the front end of my weaving studio, and then a couple hours putting everything back.  You need a pretty sufficient amount of floor space to do an indoor photo shoot of garments using strobe lights.

Of course the major issue we had was the four animals, three large dogs and a cat, who insisted they had to be exactly where we were working.  No matter how much we separated them, gave them marrow bones to chew, threw them outdoors, then kept coming back to be right under where we were working. (Yes, he is wearing a diaper.  I have two intact champion males who enjoy pissing contests in the house.  Belly bands made my life bearable again!)

The shoot went really well.  I got everything photographed I had on the list, and so did my daughter.  It was a really long day.  But I felt really good about how well I used my time since I returned from Oregon in mid March and the entire world came crashing to a halt.  It was really great to document what I’ve done.  Of course at this point I’ve launched 7 patterns, and we are close to launching the swing coats.  If you are interested, my digital patterns are available here.  

I did photograph the princess seam jacket and the swing dress, though they aren’t made from handwoven, formal photographs were needed for use in the pattern directions, and promotional materials.  Shooting stuff on me in the mirror isn’t the best advertisement for my patterns!

I also shot this vest, which I made last fall, for the guild sale.  It didn’t sell, and I made it in a much larger size than I am, and I love it so much in the photograph, that I’m tempted to take it apart and cut it down to fit.  The Pendleton Woolen Mill Worms are woven into a Theo Moorman inlay.  All of the details can be seen on my website, the link to the gallery is here.

And so I was quite amazed at all the pieces I’ve done since I got back in March.  One of the first things I tackled was a remake of a vest I made a few years ago, from the fabric I made in a Dianne Totten Crimp Cloth Workshop.  I never liked the way it turned out, and it sat in the back of my closet for a couple of years.  I finally dug it out and re-draped it and cut a lot out of the sides…  Now I love it!

Then I worked on creating a swing skirt from my swing dress pattern.  The fabric was woven a year or so ago, called Vertical Barriers.

I followed that by working with the Driftwood fabric.  I created this dress with a semi attached leather yoke with sleeves.  And I couched an embroidered design on the yokes, both front and back, and added beads.

The leftover Driftwood fabric and leather, went into making this motorcycle vest.  Leather is pretty tough to photograph, there is no way around the glare of the lights.  Even using diffused lighting with umbrellas.  Leather shows everything.  But I’m pretty happy with the photos.

I went from there  to the swing coat from the handdyed wool/mohair yardage I wove at the end of last year.  This one was a challenge, it is a combination of my 400 swing coat, which should be released shortly, and the hood and in-seam buttonholes from my 7001700 tunic.    One day I’ll write up a PDF of how I actually did this.  It is on the list.  The list is very long…  I need more quarantine time…

And then I dove into a loom that has been sitting idle for years.  It had about 30″ left of a Theo Moorman threading, poly sewing thread tie-down warps on a linen ground.  I played with novelty yarns and stripped recycled fur.  I had so much fun with this, I’m waiting to set up a loom specifically dedicated to this technique so I can play and create in a spontaneous way, which is so not what a weaver usually does…

The end result is this walking vest, it is a combination of my 600 walking vest pattern and the 800 zippered vest pattern with collar.  Both are on the table for creating digital downloads, but it may be another couple of months.  

It is amazing to look back over how productive you’ve been when the world is falling apart.  I admit that it is sort of unusual to be so productive when everything looks so bleak.  My daughter just rolls her eyes at me.  I can assure you she is responding to all of this in a much different way.  I’ve always thrived when the chips are down, by losing myself in my work.  There is something about designing and executing something really difficult to take you away from current reality.  It has always worked for me, through my own bout with cancer, through my husband’s cancer and subsequent death, through the raising of two young adults, to my son’s military deployments in the middle east.  Keeping busy has always gotten me through.  

And now come the tedious part, where I process the photos, update all of my social media, website, even the new patterns, because I have new images for the 1000 Swing Dress and the 200 Jacket with Princess Seam variation.  

It is very satisfying to cross off a large project on the to-do list.  Now I can move onto the next major hurdle, but I know that the new photo space in the office is quick to set up so I won’t have to wait a couple years between shoots!

Stay tuned…

 

Hunkered Down…

This is a scary, unprecedented time we are living in, no one has a playbook for all that we are experiencing as a nation.  There are lots of opinions, lots of fur flying, lots of accusations, and lots of personal stories.  I use social media to some extent, I have more than 2200 friends on Facebook, many I don’t know, but most are either local friends, family or friends from the global fiber community, which makes me feel connected to a wonderful creative and thoughtful group of people. 

I pay attention to the news.  Peripherally.  I read the morning paper, I listen to NPR on the hour while listening to a public radio classical station.  I glance at news feeds from the AP and Reuters, and have subscriptions to the Washington Post and NY Times.  But mostly I just read the local NJ paper in the morning and get on with my day.  

Of course, NJ now has the second highest Covid-19 cases in the US, and the numbers double every other day.  It isn’t a question of if we will all get it, it is when and can the local hospitals handle the volume of really sick people.  So far it isn’t looking so good.  

That said, I turn to Facebook to see what my fiber friends are doing, to laugh, to find out what’s happening in their lives.  I love seeing photos of sunsets, snowy landscapes, spring blooming, handspun yarn, the latest tapestry or yardage or dishtowel on your loom, inspiration, cat and dog photos, grandchildren photos, wickedly funny cartoons, and for a brief half hour, I feel connected.  What I despise is seeing every other post an angry share of what the government is or is not doing depending on which side of the fence you are sitting on.  And I have dear friends who sit on both sides of that fence.  I’ve started hiding posts that have been shared from any news source.  That doesn’t seem to be helping.  Next effort is to start unfollowing friends who continue to rage at the news.  I get the news.  I get it from sources I trust to be truthful and informative.  Please share with me what you are working on, what happens in your personal lives, and breathe a little.  There is nothing much any of us can do but vote in November.

And so I will share what’s happening with me since this time of self quarantining.  To be perfectly honest here, and I’m a little embarrassed to even write this,  I have never been happier.  My entire calendar has been cancelled into June, and I’m waiting to see what happens with those workshops.  As much as I love my life, the travel, the students, the one thing I find myself desperately trying to find, is time.  Time to smell the proverbial roses.  Time to do some of the fun things I want to do.  Time to work in my studio, time to play an instrument or read or garden or just hang out.  And look at Facebook.  There is some gorgeous inspirational stuff out there if you can weed through the angry reposts.  

We continue to revamp the studio spaces, this morning the electricians came to repair the line to the shed, which will be a lovely woodshop, because well, you can’t have enough play places in the house. My electricians were desperate for work, and they would mostly be outside and in the crawl space, and I could communicate with them from the deck.  And Brianna and I last weekend, drove over to the storage unit, which is where all of my son’s belongings are held, to retrieve her couch.  Her beloved 400 pound monster of a couch, that belonged to her grandmother, that she won’t part with.  My friend with a truck, keeping his distance, brought over my trailer, and met us at the storage unit.  Brianna and I wheeled the sofa out of the unit on a couple of dollies.  The sofa sat in the trailer on the side of the house.  I had arranged for help getting it up to the second floor, but that help fell through.  So I looked at my daughter, and said, well, we are two strong and inventive women, (she is much stronger than I, but we are use to moving looms) and with a little bit of physics, and some brute strength on her part, we hauled that baby across the back yard, up the deck stairs, up the balcony stairs, turned it on its end to get it into my bedroom, rotated it in a contorted way, down the hall, up more stairs, and by removing a couple of doors, we managed to get it into her new bedroom, my old studio.  We hurt, we were exhausted, but we felt really accomplished.  Give two women no choice and see what they can do…

My days are simple, I get up, tend to the dogs, have my morning tea and look at the paper, and then I get to work.  I get to play in my lovely new studios, I have stuff to play with, and I stop for meals when I’m hungry. I run the vacuum occasionally, because I have three dogs and a cat and a fiber studio and my housekeeper is working from home, she sent instructions! (I stole that from Facebook).  My daughter is here, learning Illustrator, so we can begin to explore digitizing my patterns and making them available for download.  We are a long way away from that actually happening, but I have time now.  

There is always the fear that of course I or my children, who both live with me will get sick.  My son works 15 hour days at a high volume Target.  He is exposed to all kinds of craziness.  But I don’t live in fear.  I take each day as a gift.  I’ve been through a lot of drama and trauma in my life.  This too shall eventually pass.  For now, I had time to plant pansies and my garden is full of cold weather greens.  And the winter was so mild that my rosemary wintered over.

I have time to practice my recorder.  I’m trying to learn to play the Brandenburg Concerto #3, on Alto recorder, for a potential concert in December.  Challenging, but I have time to practice.  

I have time to read in the evenings.  I’ve read Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, and Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover. Both excellent reads.  I’m currently reading a southern ghost story, quite the beach read, called Winter Cottage by Mary Ellen Taylor (It was a $1.99 download).  An entertaining escape.  And we always have a 1000 piece puzzle going in the corner of the living room.

I have time to knit, I finished a summer shell I’ve been working on for too long, Harrisville silk and wool and their Rhodora pattern.  Just needs blocking and then the handwork and edge finishes.  

Started a new sweater, using Cascade Yarns Venezia Sport, Merino and Silk.  The pattern is from C2Knits, Greta.  I’ve wanted to make this one for a long time.  

And I took this handwoven yardage from last year and made a skirt.  The yardage is called Vertical Barriers.  It has multiple warps, mostly rayons, some hand dyed.  I used up a lot of stuff that was hiding out on the shelves.  The weft is some very old Maypole Nehalem Worsted 3 ply wool.  So the fabric fulled quite nicely.  There were only about 3 yards by the time I was finished, but there was some width to work with.  24epi.

Meanwhile, I wanted to create a swing skirt from  my swing dress pattern.  As I’m almost 65 years old, I do not have a waist, and skirts with waistbands are stupid at my age.  I much prefer a shaped waist facing, way more comfortable and easy to customize.  This was the original dress, and the resulting test skirt.  

I got to wear the skirt for our in house St. Patrick’s Day celebration, we had corned beef, cabbage, Irish Soda Bread and lots of Guinness.  

I wanted the reverse shaped waist facing to be more proportionate, but it couldn’t sit any lower, because there are pockets of course.  So I funneled the waist, shortened the darts a bit, and dove into the Vertical Barriers Yardage.  It was a challenge to cut out, because things had to match.  And there is a drop lining.  I had an old piece of rust colored Ultrasuede in the stash, which made for a lovely reverse waist facing.  The fit is so very comfortable.  And yes, I knit the sweater, from a silk wool mill end, doubled, in seed stitch, using a C2Knits pattern for the fit.

And now I’m off to explore a test garment, for the swing dress with sleeves.  Each new piece I do gives me about 20 new ideas.  Which is how life should be.  No matter how much I’m quarantined, there will never be enough hours for all the stuff that runs through my head.

Stay tuned…

 

 

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