Full Days and Future Possibilities…

Once again, I’m prepping for my next trip, if it is fall, I’m probably somewhere.  This fall I’ll be bouncing from NH to WA to WI to NC and points in between.  To say I feel like a bit of a yo-yo would be putting it mildly.  I have so loved having these last four weeks to myself, to be busy and productive and unencumbered by house stuff and contractors and children.  My only issue if you will, is that my beloved Ranger is mad at me because I’m holed up in the studio most days and he has taken to lifting his leg around the house and marking his displeasure.  I know he needs to be neutered, but the breeder wants to breed him once more and she owns those rights.  So I have to put up with a dog who is pissed at me and give him as much me time as I can.  And I have discovered what a black light can uncover…

Meanwhile, I have been working fast and furiously on updating a couple of my class patterns with details that have been requested and were sort of at the bottom of my very lengthy to-do list.  I took advantage of some uninterrupted time and really dove in.  Drafting a small detail like a hood on my tunic pattern is more complicated than it seems.  Drafting the hood was nothing.  I did that in about 15 minutes.  Then comes drafting all the sizes.  And while I was at it, I’ve had requests for more of a drop shoulder, common on men’s shirts, so I redrafted the tunic body as well with that option.  Then I had to test it.  I did it in a sheet first, and made it to fit my daughter, who is quite a different body than me, and a lot younger, apparently having a hood on everything is popular among millennials.  She loved it.

Then I tested it on a version to fit me, with the drop shoulder, in a lovely wool I had in my stash, and I have to admit, I would wear that…

Once I know it is correct, then comes the fun part, not only do I have to copy all the patterns multiple times, but I have to design cover sheets for the pattern and redraw the handout.  That meant another dozen or so illustrations, and then once the handout is reworked, converting the whole thing to  PDF and uploading to my shop so students who want the directions for the pattern they have traced, can always have the latest version. If you have already bought a version of one of my pattern directions, you should be able to click on the link you were sent and download the latest version.  It is free, and available here, but of course, you have to take my class to get the pattern.  Please don’t write me nasty letters about me not offering the patterns for sale.  Know that I want to, and that I haven’t had the time or expertise to do that conversion, but it is in the works.  I just need to hire someone…  More about that later…

And while I was on a roll, I went ahead and drafted the pattern for the combined jacket and collared vest.  I had made this jacket a couple years ago, by combining two of my class patterns and a number of students jumped on it, but I had to physically help them do the conversion and there were of course no directions.  So on my list was “draft Noro jacket pattern and write directions.”  Here is the original jacket, woven with Noro Toiyo Lace in the weft.

I managed that last week, making copies of the patterns on Monday and writing directions, which I will say I do enjoy, and I love making those little illustrations, but my eyes were bleary and my brain was fogged by the time I got the proofed version.  And there is no telling that I got it 100%.  Just today I got a lovely note from one of my students who had downloaded my directions for the bias top she had traced in a class.  I had added a swing dress to the pattern, and built a handout.  I apparently left out a couple of critical steps, oops, she figured it out, but wrote to tell me.  So this afternoon, I edited that, reprinted all the incorrect pages for the handouts I prepared for Harrisville next week, and updated the store file here

Here is the test version of the collared jacket with zipper.  This is a lovely woven wool that I bought from Mood fabrics many years ago.  It worked out perfectly for this jacket.  The directions are here.

I snuck away this weekend back to Peters Valley to take a class, something I promised myself I would do every summer.  Sharron Parker is a wonderful feltmaker, and I had the privilege of rooming with her when I traveled to Cuba back in 2018.  When I saw she was teaching at the Valley, I jumped on it.  It was terrific fun.  I have done a fair amount of felting in my day, but I’d rather thread 1400 ends on a loom than do the physical effort it takes to roll felted fabric.  So I assumed I’d be quite sore by the end of the three day class.  

Sharon actually had a lovely plan for helping get from point A to point B, the class was mixed levels and everyone had fun playing along.  First we made geodes and cut them apart.  

By slicing them further, and laying them on stacked batts, and further felting them into the batts, we made some lovely designs.  The geodes did all the work.  Later Saturday night I used my sewing machine back in the studio to outline parts and my needle felting machine to make certain areas more secure and flatter.  I can still go back and do more work, something to look forward to…

She gave us each a page from a Wolf Kahn calendar, and told us to try to replicate the colors by blending, either with a drum carder or hand cards.  I really worked at this to see how closely I could replicate it.  I’m pretty happy with how close I came…

And then with another half dozen ideas for directions to go, I  spent all of Sunday playing with wool and hot soapy water.  I made a small stacked batt piece, and instead of slicing linear like I usually do, I cut into it horizontally and vertically, and loved the effect.  I made a second batt, this one much thicker and more colorful, but I’m so in love with the surface I’m not ready to cut into it yet.

The scraps from cutting out the piece above got felted into a lovely work, because with wool, you don’t have to waste anything…

Meanwhile, I watched my daughter in action as the fibers assistant for the class.  She didn’t disappoint. Felted unicorn horn and matching ears…

She has been up at Peters Valley all summer as the fibers assistant, and has been exposed to so much, but when I taught my yardage class up there three weeks ago, she had signed up to take a metals class working with tin cans way back in January so was unavailable to help me.  Let me just say that I completely get it when she says after each class that the teacher wants to adopt her.  And lucky me, I get first dibs and have made the decision over the last couple of weeks that I do need help taking my own business where I want it to go, especially after losing my beloved Cynthia who moved to southern NJ.  My daughter is really really good.  Of course if you have followed my blog regularly over the last ten years, you’d know that.  There is a lot for us to work out, especially with the financial arrangements, and the thought that I’m taking on the responsibility for an employee and that she is related to me.  Like today, when I was training her (she is between classes at the Valley and came home to help with the final prep for Harrisville), on how to create the composite handouts and upload to the eShop, she kept rolling her eyes and saying, MUTH-ER…  I’m a millennial and I know my way around a computer…  

One of the jobs I gave her today besides binding all the handouts, was to relabel all the Texturized Weft interfacing I sell, because when I bought another 400 yards, I got caught in the trade war with China and had to pay an additional 30% tariff on the two rolls.  I knew the company who designed it was French, but the fabric actually is made now in China.  Sigh…  Anyway, I needed her to cut more of the Fusi Knit, and package and label, and handling 200 yard rolls x 60″ wide interfacing is brutal.  Those things must weight 70 pounds.  She did about two packages and said, I have an idea and she disappeared…

She returned with a bunch of poles and connections from my old craft fair booth, which we keep in old ski bags in the garage because well, you never know what fun things you can do with poles and connectors.  She rigged up this…

 

And then after cutting another package, she disappeared again and came back with more poles, because she wanted an underneath support, so came up with version 2.0…

This is why I need to hire my millennial daughter, who is as bright as her late father, and needs to be in a position to grow her own brand and develop her own life as an artist and develop her own workshops and seminars and I wouldn’t be who I am today without the support of my late husband, and I feel like I owe that to her, she is talented and really really good.  And I’ve already downloaded the classes for her to learn Adobe Illustrator which will allow her to convert my patterns, once scanned into vector drawings…  Stay tuned for that…

And I’m even managed to do some weaving.  The towels are progressing, and I love this pattern, from Webs, their Kaleidoscope towels, because you can change the weft and get all sorts of different effects.  I think I’ve completed seven so far, on a 14 yard warp.

And I finally got the Retro Palette scarves up and running.  I love the subtle coloring of this one, and I got to play with my new toy.  Peters Valley had one of these and I immediately ordered it.  It is a large lit magnifying glass that really helps for tasks like threading and in this case hemstitching on the loom.  I want one in every room…

And because I desperately wanted to squeeze in one more thing, I made a padded bag from the leftovers from a towel run I did a few years ago.  The last bit wasn’t big enough for a full towel, and the guild show and sale is coming in a couple months, and I have a lot of scrap to get creative with…

Stay tuned…

Heddle Wars…

This has been a rather tough week.  Not for me.  I’m fine.  But in a series of really sad, and horrifying events, accidents, deaths, unwanted health diagnoses, and other calamities, none of which I have any control over, it has been rather tough to carry on as if everything in the world is fine.  Sunday alone I went to two visitations at local funeral homes.  None of these events are my stories to tell, but my heart is broken for my friend with a cancer diagnosis, my other friend who lost her father, and a pretty horrific event that, if you live in my area, you know about, and if you don’t, you don’t want to know about, all of which has left me distracted and in mourning.  And there is my daughter.  I haven’t said much about her issues, again it isn’t my story to tell, but she is struggling with her own health diagnosis.  She has left her job to reevaluate her life, and is living in my basement now, safe, but lacking focus and purpose.  She will be OK, of that I’m confident.

When my husband was dying, one of the only things I could think of to keep my brain from exploding with grief, was to steal away moments in my studio and calculate the most intense fabric design, one that even I had to struggle to execute but honestly it kept me sane. It is the banner fabric across my facebook page.   If you read my last couple of posts, you know my goal was to fill all of my beautiful looms with colorful cloth because they have been naked for way too long.  My original 45″ 8 shaft Tools of the Trade loom from the 70’s had been given to my daughter when she moved out a couple of years ago, which left me with glorious space and room for all of my textile-y things.  When she moved back in, she brought the loom back and a second one almost identical which she picked up for $350.  That one got shoved in the guest room. So between us we own 9 Tools of the Trade Looms, manufactured in the 70’s – 90’s.  The great thing about having 9 of the same brand loom is that all the parts are interchangeable.  Which gets to the meat of the story.

Because of my daughter’s health issues, and work schedule and general life style, she had slowly gotten away from the things in life that brought her joy.  I know how it happens, and I suspect dear readers that this kind of situation has happened to all of you at some point in your lives, and sometimes,  many times throughout your life.  I just got off the phone with a coordinator for Florida Tropical Conference which is happening in about two weeks.  I suspect that every person who has ever coordinated a conference has gotten so far away from the simple things that bring you joy, reading a book, designing a project, setting up a loom, knitting a scarf, whatever, that suddenly they, actually we, find ourselves rudderless drifting in a stormy ocean with nothing to ground us.  I would look in my daughter’s eyes and see nothing.  There were no lights on.  Rudderless…

Having left her job for a bit of a sabbatical shall we say, mostly to get her health back on track and to finish school, she woke up last weekend and I reminded her, having just updated the schedule on one of the guild websites I maintain, that the guild challenge was due in April.  She looked at me aghast.  When she signed up last year, life looked very different.  Suddenly her eyes sparked and the lights went on and she dove into her basement dwelling and came up with her laptop, weaving software and the plans she had shelved for her challenge project.  

Meanwhile, I needed to dress one more loom, my 36″ 8 shaft Tools of the Trade also sat naked in my studio.  It was depressing every time I entered the room.  And so it began. I came up with a really complicated warp design, spent hours with my weaving software.  She wound her 12 yard warp using my mill (hers is packed in the attic) while I used a small 4+ yard warping board propped on  my ironing board.  I was building my cloth around a 4 1/2 yard warp I had obtained in a Kathrin Weber Dye Class.  I’m not sure if I dyed it or if Kathrin did as a demo, but there it sat and it was my trusty assistant who said, “When are you going to use that warp?”  I pulled all kinds of things from my shelf, including some cupcake dyed skeins I also did in that class.  For those who are curious, cupcake dyeing is where you wind a ball on a ball winder, and then pop it in a deli container with about an inch dye and let it absorb into the ball.  Flipping the ball over and putting in a different color makes some great effects.  I wound a total of 11 warps for a cloth about 32″ wide.  Most of the warps were rayon, and very slippery rayon, the kind that you have to really keep under tight control, and then of course, my daughter’s cat had to be in on all the fun.  I won’t bore you with cat photos, they are all on my facebook page.

She had a narrower warp, dishtowel width, so she finished before I did.  Next step before sleying the reed is to find out if you have enough heddles.  Those are the wire things with eyes on each of the shafts that the warp ends go through, which allows you to create patterns.  This is where the story has a bizarre twist. 

Sidebar:  I’ve had trouble with my smaller Tools of the Trade looms, and breaking warp beams and brakes because I load too much on them and require too much torque to get the tension I like for weaving.  My little 25″ looms weren’t probably designed for 12 yards of warp.  I had done some alterations to the brake on one of the looms and had the bolt shear off.  Some of this is because hardware from other countries is getting cheaper and thinner and not able to withstand what I need said hardware to do.  But I digress.  I have a number of sectional beams in addition to standard beams for my small 25″ looms, which are of course interchangeable.  The sectional beams have more substance but the kind of warp I’m putting on doesn’t work well on a loom with no packing. Too much variation in the warp threads.  I got the idea a number of years ago to pull the sectional pegs from one of the warp beams and use it as it if was a standard warp beam.  In the photo you can see a second warp beam still with the pegs and the upper one has had the metal pegs pulled out.  

It worked well for what I needed, except when the bolt for the ratchet sheared off, and I had to replace it with the original handle.  It is hard to tighten a beam with 12 yards of warp and paper packed on it with that little L shaped handle.  I would have much preferred a ratchet like on my large looms.  Meanwhile my daughter had moved away with my large Tools of the Trade, for more than a year and I had the room renovated and bookcases installed and a lot of detritus tossed in the process.  

I got the idea that if I could put the perimeter metal pegs back in, it would give me a better grip on the beam when I wanted to tighten it.  So I went to find the pegs.  I remember storing them in a container, a small basket I thought, and though the room had been redone, it shouldn’t have been hard to locate that container.  Gone.  I’ve been searching for two years for that stupid container of pegs.  I don’t lose things.  I’m fastidious about cleaning up after myself, putting things back in their place, and if I wasn’t, I could never do the job I do traveling around and having everything I need to pack right at my fingertips.  

Fast forward to last weekend…

My daughter was removing the shafts from the large loom to count the heddles on them.  She needed  about 700 heddles for her project.  So each shaft got pulled, and she started the count.  She had developed a counter weight system for the project she had previously been working on using suspended film canisters on the front shafts, filled with whatever, pennies, I had no idea.  She needed more weight on the front shaft for whatever she was doing, I didn’t much pay attention because the loom wasn’t with me for the last couple years.  

She started peeling off the pink duct tape wrapped around the film canisters and cried out, “OMG”!  I looked over and there, stuck to the duct tape wrapped around each of the film canisters were all of my missing sectional pegs.  All of them.  She had pulled them off the shelf a few years ago, needing additional weight and never happened to mention it because, well why?  I wasn’t sure whether to kiss the earth in celebration for the return of something I definitely needed for this new run of scarves, or to kill her.  There are no words.

So at this point, I’m beginning to count my heddles as well.  I need something like 1200.  It was pretty obvious that between us, we did not have enough.  All of our nine Tools of the Trade Looms use the same 10 1/2″ inserted eye heddles.  But all of them were warped with the exception of one of the table looms which I was keeping in reserve in case I need an emergency warp for an article I’m working on.  There were extra heddles on the other looms, but they can’t be removed once the loom is warped.  So I ran to the internet and knowing WEBS ships pretty quick, I ordered another 400.  I hadn’t gotten notification that they had shipped, and it is now Thursday and I’m getting desperate, we were battling for who got the heddles, there were enough for one of the looms but not for both.  I called them, and the order hadn’t been shipped, and wasn’t going to be shipped until the following Tuesday, so I added another 200 and spent a ridiculous amount on overnight shipping which still meant that the heddles wouldn’t arrive until Monday because unlike Amazon, UPS doesn’t deliver on weekends.  We are getting so spoiled!

Meanwhile we did what any self respecting couple of desperate fiber artists would do, we stripped the poor remaining table loom of all of its heddles.  Poor thing.  We had enough to get us going and when the heddles came in yesterday, I carefully put the table loom back together and all is well.  

So I sleyed my warp…

Then I threaded it.  

Meanwhile she was all warped and starting to weave.

Then I beamed my warp.  It is so luminous, shimmering and just plain pretty.  

And now, my 36″ loom has a pretty four yards of warp for a fabric that will one day become a garment, but first it has to travel around, I just got an email that Peters Valley needs a faculty piece from me for the summer faculty exhibit.  So I have to get cracking on the weaving…

And Brianna’s dishtowel warp which is built off a photograph my husband took at Baltimore Inner Harbor of the beautiful lights reflecting on the water in the Harbor, is on its way as well.

Stay tuned…

They made me do it…

Wow dear readers, lots to catch up on!

It is snowing.  Before Thanksgiving.  Sigh…  Sorry everyone, I don’t care what side of the political fence you sit on, but weather patterns are changing rapidly and it isn’t a pretty thing.  My heart bleeds for all those who lost everything between the devastating hurricanes this fall and the wildfires on the west coast, storms seemed to be vying for cable news attention in a big way.  Knitting was cancelled tonight for bad weather.  We shouldn’t be having snow days in November, not in NJ.  I have always joked that one day NJ will no longer be here and that the Delaware River will be beach front property, but I didn’t think I’d be seeing it in my lifetime, or my children’s lifetime.

That said, I’m doing what any self respecting fiber enthusiast would do, I’m making stuff.  

First off, my guild held its annual show and sale this past weekend.  The guild did really well.  Which is a wonderful thing.  I’m the treasurer, I do numbers.  This will help with our wonderful programs, two of which were rebooked from snow events last spring, which blew our budget this year, which I wrote, and we haven’t reached December yet!  In a last ditch effort to have something to sell, I made two totes out of scraps from one of the last handwoven garments I made, currently on exhibit in Asheville at the Blue Ridge Fiber Show.  I made two, forgot to photograph the second one, it was nearly identical, and both sold to the same person in the first hour of the show on Saturday.  This person, who has bought a ton of stuff from me over the years, loved that they were the same but with different color linings, and bought both for two different sets of files.  Go figure…

When I was in CT filming video for Threads magazine a couple weeks ago, I had partially made five garments to illustrate specific techniques we were going to be filming.  I have since finished two of them, and have already worn both and am enjoying the newest additions to my wardrobe.

 

The first one is this lovely pencil skirt, from an old Vogue pattern 8677; I’ve made it before.  It has a high waist with waist stays, which I made from plastic cable ties with the box end cut off.  The skirt is really comfortable.  It is made from a Ralph Lauren cotton I picked up in Nashville a couple years ago, and the skirt is completely underlined, which was the point of the video I was shooting.

The second garment I finished up in the evenings at the OBX retreat last week, or was it the week before!  This is a quilted cotton vest, with a raw silk lining on the inside, trimmed around the perimeter with bias cut linen strips.  There is a thermal interlining between the layers and it is toasty.  The vest is supposed to be reversible, and I trimmed it that way on purpose.  The video I designed it for was specifically for illustrating how to bind off a perimeter edge, miter corners, and join the two ends together.  There was a lot of handwork on this but it is really fun to wear.  The pattern is from my class patterns, the collared vest.

Speaking of…

Because of the number of patterns I offer, when I teach a class like I did in Reno, and like I will be doing in Wisconsin in a couple of weeks, the biggest takeaway I got was that I need to present the patterns in a way that people can keep track, of what goes with what and what pieces are needed for each silhouette.  I’ve been mulling this over for a long time, and making notes, tweaking and reworking because once I assign a number to a piece, and write it on, I can’t change my mind without retracing the entire pattern section.  Just to let you know, in a class where students are all tracing different things, I have 9 different silhouettes, with multiple views, and multiple copies of each of the half dozen pattern pieces in that particular silhouette.  We are talking hundreds of pattern pieces floating around.  Things get put back in the wrong envelopes, and in the case in Arkansas where space was tight, students were falling all over each other trying to find the next piece they were looking for.  I know it is an issue.  I have additional silhouettes in mind, but had to first get control of the pattern situation.

So this is what I came up with.  Each of the silhouettes will now have a hundred number to identify beyond the description, and each pattern piece will be numbered accordingly.  Plus each pattern envelope will have an image and description of what’s in there, with a line drawing of each pattern piece and the match points clearly marked.  I have four of the nine silhouettes completed, at least that envelope part, but I won’t write on the actual patterns until I’m really really really sure!  Even this morning, I looked at what I had done yesterday and found mistakes.  This kind of task takes a lot of proofing.  A lot.  And still, I know I’ll get something wrong.  But my wonderful students don’t hesitate to point out when I do! (Which I’m really really grateful for.  Really)

Please don’t write and ask me if I sell my patterns.  I do not.  I can’t.  Not yet.  Mass producing these for sale will take a whole other block of time, research and investment and that will be a goal down the road when I give up teaching but for now, these are for student use in my workshops.  

Meanwhile, the latest issue of Threads Magazine is here, issue 200, a very big milestone in publishing.  I have an article about Crocheted Edges in the Embellishment Column, four pages.  Great technique for handweavers.  I also shot a video of the techniques which will come out sometime next year.

Because time is getting close and I’m an overachiever anyway, I needed to get my holiday towels on the loom so they can be woven off by the first holiday party, which is coming up right after I return from Wisconsin.  I’ve got this…  While I was in Arkansas, Debbie the owner of Red Scottie Fibers and I spent a lot of time talking about Bockens Nialin Cotton and Linen vs Brassard Cottolin, which I can get from Webs much cheaper.  Though I don’t want to come across as cheap, these towels are all gifts and I’ve never had a problem with the Brassard Cottolin, and its Webs American predecessor Valley Yarns Cotlin.  They both made nice thirsty towels.  I decided to see what all the fuss was about, and bought the Bockens, which is Swedish, from Debbie and will report back what I find, though I won’t be able to say how good they are to use or how absorbent they are because they aren’t for me.  So if you are on my list this year, you know who you are, you’ll have to give me feedback on the more expensive yarn.  So far, winding the warp was a dream, the yarn is smooth and clean.  I’m using a draft I picked up at Webs awhile ago, for their Cabana towels. The towels are woven in a mock basket weave, and look to be quite dense and lofty.  We will see. 

The biggest thing is to keep the cat away from my 11.5 yard warp.  That would not be pretty.  I’m getting use to this cat thing, which my daughter brought with her when she moved back home, and I can’t trust it to even leave my charging cords alone.  I just got this one with my new tablet.  We hadn’t treated it with BenGay yet, which is supposed to keep cats from chewing phone chargers.  They cost about $17 to replace from Samsung, ask me how I know that, and they are specific for fast charging.  The things I learn that I wish I didn’t have to know…

So dear readers, stay safe in this first winter storm of the season, to my fiber friends in California, there are no words to describe how my heart bleeds for all of you.  To those who have lost homes, studios, businesses, animals and even loved ones, this is a cruel world and I hope that in all this pain and darkness we find a way to come together as one family.

Stay tuned…

Almost home…

I am writing this on the plane, winging my way back to the east coast, after an exhausting but remarkable 7 guild tour in four states in just over four weeks.  It seems like just a dream that this time last month I was just finishing up in Southern California, on my way to Arizona, and this last stop in Missouri, in the middle of America’s heartland, brought a very special closure to a very special trip.

I love what I do, I fly to all sorts of places in the United States, and occasionally Canada, and I meet so many different people, all devoted to creating something with their hands, and I meet the people who love them, daughters, sons, husbands, and occasionally wives.  I meet many folks who are retired from one part of their lives, who have recreated themselves again in another.  I get the privilege of staying with some of these wonderful people, who open their homes and their kitchens and their bottles of wine to me, and we share a little bit of each other’s stories, and I can’t imagine my life being nearly as full if I didn’t have this opportunity to travel.

This trip ended with an address to the Columbia Weavers and Spinners, and to my delight, they let me pick the topic.  So I chose my standard keynote address, which is my story, as it parallels the work from my hands, and from my loom; the two intertwine, warp meeting weft.  I love telling this story, because when I am finished, I am flooded by audience members who come up to me and tell me small pieces of their stories, that have unfolded as I told mine.  We all have a story, and I always feel privileged when I am able to tell mine, and have someone listen, and then share theirs.

AtWorkcolumbiaGuildVestsOn Sunday, the guild members worked feverishly to finish up their vests in the two day vest class, sewing machines were chugging along, and I ran from student to student trouble shooting where I could, and helping to make each vest turn into a personal statement for each of them.  It was great that eight of the eleven students came wearing their vests at the Tuesday night guild meeting, even though there were still quite a few pins, and unfinished handwork.  BonnieFeltedVestAnd I took a photo of Bonnie’s vest, since she was the lone felter in the group, and I am always thrilled when I have a felter in a group of handweavers because the end result is so organic and freeform.  Bonnie’s vest, coupled with the silky teal shirt, looked like she was swimming in a coral reef.

My hostess Mary Jane endured a lot having me stay with her, because I arrived last Friday evening, with the beginnings of a cold.  She provided many boxes of tissues and many bowls of hot soup, fresh bread, and a comfortable room where I could disappear and recover.  I hate when I am on the road and I get sick.  But I was lucky to have some down time on this trip, and I was able to curl up with my laptop, or a good book, and take some time to recover.  I did go to Facebook as often as I could, since the news from home was grim, a weekend storm caused severe flooding in my town, we lost one of our maple trees in the back yard, which took out the chain link fence on the side of the back yard, preventing the dog from using the yard until my husband got out there with the chain saw.  I saw photos of homes surrounded by water, landmarks I recognized from home with parking lots filled with water, and my son’s friend and another friend’s father, canoeing down the road using brooms for paddles.  I am sad for the devastation and for those still evacuated from their homes and their lives.  I was safe in the middle of the country, but my heart was heavy for those who couldn’t escape.

The highlight of my trip, was a dinner with Amy D. Preckshot, who is a member of the Columbia Weavers and Spinners Guild.  Amy is a special person and a testament to the spirit of the handweaver.  Amy is in her mid 90’s, and has a 24 shaft Toika loom visible from the parking lot in her apartment in a retirement facility.  I want to grow old and be just like Amy.  Most handweavers will recognize Amy’s work, if you have seen an ad for Webs Yarn Store, recently, you’ve seen Amy’s work.  The inside cover of the current issue of Handwoven Magazine features two of Amy’s giraffes in the Webs ad.  Amy is known for her clever handwoven stuff animals, and has written a book called, “Weaving a Zoo”, describing the animals and how to make them, and they are the first thing to sell at the annual guild sale.  My hostess Mary Jane had a collection that spanned years.  Amy graciously let me take some pictures of her whimsical animals.  She was planning the next one, I hear she is working on a red fox. Amy told me that I praised her garment in the fashion show when I did the technical critique at Convergence in Grand Rapids in 2006, and that she never forgot that experience. She hadn’t identified herself in the audience, so I never knew Amy was connected to the work I was critiquing.  She is an accomplished tailor, years of training behind her, and I was privileged to reconnect with her, and meet however briefly on the crossroads of our journeys.  I hope our paths cross again.

AmysAnimals5AmysAnimals4AmysAnimals3AmysAnimals2AmysAnimals1

So I am winging my way home, only to turn around in Newark airport and meet up with the rest of my family and head south to the Carolina’s for my son Eric’s graduation from boot camp Friday.  More than likely I’ll need another box of tissues to get me through graduation, I know I’ll not be able to get through that ceremony without shedding a few tears.  Stay tuned…

Just chugging along, singing a song…

I am making progress, or else I’m completely delusional…  It is hard to stay focused, but maybe that’s not a bad thing.  Having severe ADD can come in handy when you are trying to take care of 20 tasks at once.  They eventually all get completed, and sometimes all at the same time, and that’s cause for celebration.

mugmatsmugmat_backingreworked_mugmatI took a little detour, because I had these little things sitting on my sewing machine, and they were just calling to me saying, “Fix me, fix me…”  So of course, I got knocked off course temporarily.  I blogged about my guild mug mat exchange last December (you have to scroll way down to find that part of the blog to see my mug mats).  I never showed the mats that I got.  Let me say that I love the fabric, and the colors, and the pattern of the mug mats I received at the exchange.  And I love the gorgeous wool backing my guild mate used to make the mats.  What I didn’t like, I’ll be honest, was the way they were constructed.  It was a sewing thing.  And I’m a sewer.  And I own a pair of shears and I’m not afraid to take something apart when I don’t like how it is constructed…  🙂

So I spent about an hour, I had already taken the six mats apart, and trimmed them and fringed them, and added a piece of interfacing to the back.  I re-pinned the wool, and did a fine zig zag around the perimeter of each mat.  Now they lay flat, and don’t have the lumpy uneven corners that could cause a wine glass to tip…  🙂

I’ve been working steadily on updating all the of the presentations/lectures/workshops I’m going to be giving on my southwest tour in February.  Since I’ve started the blog, I’ve spent hours documenting all of my projects, step by step photos, working out new techniques, and generally having a good time of it all, but I realized looking back over some of my lectures/workshops/monographs, that they could use a bit of updating, with some of the newer techniques/photos/projects.  The Leftovers Monograph needed a major overhaul, with all the new totes I did earlier on in the year.  I have much better step by step photos now, many of the ones I originally used were scanned from slides from storyboard techniques I used for demo purposes.  I finished reworking all the lecture/workshops for the trip, just proofing them now, but while I was working on updating the step by step PowerPoint slides, I had one of those slap yourself upside the head and yell, “Duh…” moments.  I had made a couple of placemats from leftover scraps, and developed a half day workshop out of it, I’ll be giving it this summer at the American Sewing Guild Conference in Atlanta in August, but I never resolved the edge binding.  I tried binding them a couple of different ways, and both attempts were too time consuming and clumsy for a four hour class.  Speed and ease in a class like this is so critical.  Just because I can do it, doesn’t mean a class of 25 students, sharing machines, in four hours, of mixed skill levels can do it.

cut_lining_apply_bindingstitch_bindingWell, suddenly it hit me.  So simple.  No need for a separate bias binding here.  Just cut the lining for the mat bigger, and fold around the front and stitch.  It worked.  So easy.  I undid all the binding on both of the mats, and tried out this method, I was so excited, and loved the finish.  I gave the mats a final pressing and…

This would not be a good time to mention that I failed to follow the most basic of all sewing rules.  That would be preshrinking the fabric.  I of course would never take such a short cut as to not preshrink the lining used as the backing for my lovely mats.  So I don’t need to mention here what happens when you iron something that hasn’t been pre-shrunk.  Lets just say I wanted to kill another couple of hours and remove all the stitching again so I could prove how important it is to pre-shrink fabrics before you make stuff.  🙂

rayon_boucleIn the middle of that escapade, I got one of Webs emails, you know the one with all the cool knitting yarns on sale.  Since I don’t as a rule buy knitting yarns, I’m not so inclined to check it out, but I lie…  If you search, there is always something in the weaving yarn mill end clearance that just has to come live with me, and I always groan audibly whenever the Webs sale ad comes into my inbox.  I can’t not check…  And of course Webs is too quick to ship…  yarnSo I got a little additional diversion, a back order I forgot I had from Halcyon, and my cheap yarn from Webs both arrived the same day, I unpacked everything and was sort of surprised at this huge cone of rayon bouclé in a lovely soft variegated color.  I thought I had ordered something else, but this is pretty cool, and I think the whole two pound plus cone was something like $15.  Works for me…

And finally, I finished a piece I’ve had on the loom since last fall.  This is one of my Personal Post Series artworks, small woven images in a Theo Moorman inlay technique, I’ve blogged about this technique numerous times, just do a search for “Big Sister” and there are all kinds of how to’s out there in my archives.  I was doing a pair of images, that I wanted to somehow use to create a diptych, images that play off of each other, bound in a way to make them book like, which I have done, but I don’t want to show the final images just yet.  I am hoping to enter this piece in the Small Expressions exhibit for HGA, but there is a query going around the blog-o-sphere about the definition of “published work”.

HGA (that would be the Handweavers Guild of America), who sponsors Convergence which will be in Albuquerque this July, is sponsoring four exhibits, one of which is the yardage exhibit I just applied to with work from my last blog.  The requirements are that the work cannot have been published.  Two years ago when I asked for more specific information about this subject, I was told that website content didn’t count, that they were mostly concerned with magazine publishing, or books/catalogs with the work, that would have a national RestInPeaceexposure before being exhibited at a Convergence.  I understand that policy, and respect it.  The piece I had done for the fashion show, earlier in the year, I stupidly let Threads publish, and now I can’t enter it in Convergence, because of this policy.  No matter, I have other work to enter.  But the question has come up, do blogs count as publishing?  I hadn’t given that much thought, because website content was safe and I think of my blog as an extension of my website.  But blogs are a form of publishing.  So I have a query out to HGA, and hopefully will get a response in a timely fashion because the next three deadlines are lurking around the corner…  Meanwhile, here is the piece just before I cut it off the loom.

Eventually I’ll show the finished piece and the story behind it.  I think it is a pretty powerful piece, because it is about something important to me.  And that is what art is.  A form of communication.  Whether it gets accepted to the exhibition is a whole separate issue, and that will be what it is.  But for now, I am proud of this piece, and will eventually show it to you when I find out if blogging is actually publishing.