Thursday, October 23, 2014


I don't think I'll ever be A Real Weaver; that's not what this is all about. This is about learning another technique I can use on garments and bags, maybe. A way to use the threads and fibers I have and learn something new. Learning new stuff is just fun, no matter what I do (or don't do) with it.

So here's the story.

Back in the spring at Art is You in Olive Branch, Mississippi, Julianna Hudgins came to play. I hadn't met her before, and she is delightful. A tiny, high-powered, high-maintenance hoot. And I mean that in the nicest possible way. Her hair has its own zip code. She brought a bunch of Jewel Looms, the bead-weaving looms she designed, and she did an afternoon tutorial in The Voodoo Lounge. I sat and watched and stitched because I didn't really imagine any time I'd ever want to make a woven bead bracelet, and then I forgot about it  because that's just how my brain works.

Move ahead to September, at Art is You in Petaluma, and Tonia Jenny, who had done the tutorial with Juliana back in the spring, let me tag along to a workshop she was taking (thanks to Jane LaFazio for letting me come hang out that day; it was delightful), and opened up a bag and let me look through all the bracelets she'd made in the interim. They were gorgeous. Most of them were intricately beaded, but there was this one:
 woven without beads, out of bits of leftover sock yarn (I think). I fell in love with it, and Tonia gave it to me, along with a spare loom.

We met in the hotel lobby the night of Art Trunk, before we could go in and actually, you know, shop, and she taught me how to weave fibers: set up and string the loom, weave the fibers, weave in the ends, finish it off—all of the steps. You saw the rest yesterday: the loom Tonia gave me, one Julianna gave me (at Art is You in Stamford—yes, it's just like family, meeting up at Art is You retreats all across the country), and 4 more that I bought. I know my obsessions well, and I know this is the only way I learn to do stuff: do multiples, compare, tweak, start over, try another way.

Below you can see the ones I've made for myself so far. They all wrap around twice—the loom is exactly long enough to make one this length, and it's exactly long enough to go around my (skinny) wrists two times, which I love.
 I use ancient shell buttons from my stash as closures for now; I have some other ideas I plan to try.
I've also made maybe half a dozen for The EGE and one for a guy who works at The Wine Rack and wanted one. For those, I use cotton cord and make them sized to fit and close with a hidden snap. Very plain, just a band of color. For The EGE, I've been making them in combinations to go with his appliquéd t-shirts, and he's having fun with those. 

OK, now look up at the loom photo again and see the two over on the left. Those are the latest experiment: woven cuffs from a wool/silk blend I got on clearance. I finished those yesterday:

 When Tonia taught me this technique, she was adamant: "No knots!" So I learned to weave the ends back in so things were all nice and smooth and finished. Now, however, I'm breaking that rule and putting knots on the outside. I like that; it breaks up the smooth sameness and adds more texture.

 I secured these with hooks and eyes, which I also had on hand, apparently from my mother's sewing stash. I'm interested in seeing if this will keep the cuffs lying flat when I wear them or if the very ends will curl up. It's all a learning process.
 They're kind of itchy, but they're warm, and I'm wondering if having your wrists warm is enough to, you know, actually feel warm. Like warm up your hands? Or your arms? I mean, there are wrist warmers, right? So there must be a reason they exist, unless it's just because they're cute.
 Now I'm going to try one with some silk ribbon woven in. I have some more of the clearance wool/silk stuff in blues and greens, and I have an old piece of silk ribbon in those colors. I want to cut it in several pieces and insert a bit every now and then, just to see how that looks. If I like it, I have more silk ribbons I bought long ago; they turned out to be too thin to use on garments because it just disappears to nothing. Plus now that I know how to cut fabric on the bias to make my own silk and velvet ribbon, well! I have all those scraps and pieces of saris (not the full-sized ones, but a bag of scraps Janice, of Felt Sutra, gave me), and I'm thinking of cutting some of those into ribbon (wider than the ones I have here) and weaving those. If that works, I'm thinking woven pockets for garments. Carol (she doesn't have a website) sent me a box of wonderfulness, and there were two woven pieces in it that made me think, "Pockets!" and that set off a whole new thread of ideas. I've got a ton of stretcher bars (bought mostly in bundles at estate sales long ago) in all different lengths, and I'm thinking I'll try making a bag-sized loom out of 4 of those, with some reinforcement (I'm thinking of those little angle brackets you can screw in, maybe) to make it steady; or I could glue two layers of stretcher bars together.) I was sitting in The Voodoo Lounge yesterday (the original Voodoo Lounge, here in my house, not the one that appears at retreats when we set up a room for hanging out), looking around, and my eyes caught on the built-in shelves set into an alcove in the wall. I hung a curtain rod for orange and pink curtains, and sitting there looking at it, I thought of how easily that space could convert into a loom long enough for a scarf: replace the curtain rod with a sturdier wooden dowel, put another one, reversed, at floor level (reversed so the tension wouldn't pull the dowel from the brackets, since this would all be temporary), make it however wide I wanted and as long as the opening (the height of a doorway, so what? 7'?). I wouldn't have to remove the books or anything; all I'd have to do is slide off the curtains and set up the dowels. Hmmmmmmm.

But for now, I'm going to just play with the blue and green fiber and ribbon and let the possibilities for more experiments simmer on the back burner: I have enough to keep me more than occupied for the next little while.

Oh, I did just snort. Yes, I did, here all alone by myself. I have enough projects going that I should clone myself half a dozen times. I have more I want to start—I dug out a linen top I was going to return to Lana because I suddenly realized how I could totally remake it in size and length, and EASILY. But I'm forcing myself to hold off until I get at least one more thing finished. Just one more, that's all. Then I can start the next three I want to do. Yeah, I know the math doesn't work, but that's the best I can do; I'm disciplined about pretty much everything except projects and cookies, and I'm really trying to work on the cookies. . . .

Thanks for coming by! XO

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Triage Wednesday

I'm still happy as a puppy over here, planning and experimenting and moving from one project to another. Today I had to pile them all up and do triage, just so I'd know what's what. I like to be able to grab a bag and have everything in it (needle, floss, the garment, a thimble if I need it, maybe glasses and a pair of cheapo scissors) so I can go into another room and sit down and work without having to get up to go find something because once I sit down, I'm almost always covered with cats, and since I hate to disturb them once they're settled, I would otherwise find myself just sitting and petting them. That's wonderful, but eventually I *need* to stitch.  Plus I have to have a bag ready to grab when we head out to The Wine Rack. I hate having to stop and think about what I'm going to take to work on; I want it to be ready to go, and I want to have choices. If I feel sociable, I want something simple that will allow me to carry on a conversation while I stitch. If I don't feel like talking, I like something that engages me more fully so I don't get pissy at the conversations I overhear.

Anyway. So here's what's lined up:
 Here on the desk in the office are my Jewel Looms, about which adventure I'll write more later. Today, at some point, I hope to finish those two on the left, which are an experiment with weaving wrist cuffs out of a 50/50 wool silk blend I got on clearance. The jury's still out on this, and I'm really jazzed to cut them off the loom, finish the ends, and see how they're going to work.
 Here, above, are the suede laces I'll use for more woven bracelets (along the sides to use as a closure). I stretched them out and hung them up here to relax.
 Then to the big table I set up in the former living room, now sewing room. That's the pile, above.
 Here's a pair of Levi's that have needed mending for over a year. I think I've learned enough about weaving to weave/darn the knees. I don't get how people can wear artfully frayed knees. Mine always rip more and more until they reach the side seams and then gape open, letting in cold air and catching my knee when I bend my leg.  I just started this today. I need just a tiny start so I can pick it up and know where I'm going. I really believe that's the key to productivity: always knowing what you want to do next and having everything you need to jump right in, even if you have only 5 minutes.
 Then there's this Flax dress ( below) I'll wear as a duster, an open over-garment thing. I have a green one just like it that I bought and dyed (a better green) a while back, and I love it, so I had to have this one, too, of course. I thought it was brown until I took it outside in the sunlight and realized it was purple and yellow woven together. There's a reason we don't mix purple and yellow, and it's because it looks hideous. I was trying to figure out what color I could overdye it, and one of the girls who works in the shop suggested red. So I did, and this is the result: a redder purple and a slightly coral-y red. I can work with these, even though the result isn't ever going to be my favorite color. I'll make these photos extra-large so you can really see the weave, which is fascinating. It's linen, and I love the nubby bits. I've chosen a red-purple t-shirt for an appliqué and have matched the colors of the weave with red and purple floss, so I'm ready to experiment. My goal is to bring out the individual colors as much as possible so it doesn't just look muddy.

 Then I got this groovy two-layer Cynthia Ashby jacket, below, and I'm going to work on it with some bright red-orange floss and matching felted wool for an appliqué. It's dark grey, which I don't hate, surprisingly enough, but it definitely needs some bright color to spark it up.
 A two-piece set I've had and been working on, off and on, for a couple years:
 The tablecloth I'm making into a shawl, below, embroidery with Stencil Girl stencils. I may still be working on this one when I'm 80.
 An apron jumper I made from a tablecloth/bedspread/I don't know. It needs a lot of stabilizing handwork:
 The wool sweater Sharon gave me in Stamford, now with more wool felt appliqués pinned on and ready to be stitched:
Chambray-blue linen I dyed this week along with some purple and some red, all waiting to be cut out and sewn into apron jumper things. That's a piece of silk from Janice Kissinger of Felt Sutra:
 And, finally, something I actually finished. I don't know if I showed it to you before I started stitching, so here it is then:
And here it is now. It can be worn as a shawl:
 (I tried to get a close up of her toothy bling, but it was blurry and I was too lazy to go out and try again. It started pouring down rain—that's my excuse.)

 or a hip wrap over skinny jeans:

This triage and blogging thang has taken me all day long. I didn't even do any actual *work* today, which is unusual. But it feels much better: it was getting a little overwhelming, and I realized this morning I didn't know what to work on next. I had some stuff I wanted to do, but I didn't have all the parts gathered and wasn't sure where I was going to start.

All better now.

Thursday, October 16, 2014


We're home, and I met the last deadline (the one I was working on at Art is You in Stamford), and I don't start another one until Monday, and I copyedited something this morning and now I can do whatever I want until Monday morning. Woo-hoo!

Believe it or not, there *is* a problem with that. Not buying it? Here: there are so very many things I want to do that I've pulled out a ton of stuff and am just pretty much going in circles this morning, pulling out more and more and more and making a huge mess and acting like a crazed bumble bee, zipping madly from one pile to another. Let me show you!

Here is the coolest thing ever: old silk saris and sari parts I bought from and was given by Janice Kissinger of Felt Sutra, my best stitching buddy. We meet in hotel lobbies across the country (Mississippi, California, Connecticut) and stitch together, and it's beyond lovely.
 She gave me this scrap, below, which I adore. It's torn and stained a lot and has some tears, and that makes it even more fabulous to me. I washed and dried it and trimmed the raw end, and now I'll roll and hand stitch that end with silk floss.
 See the handwork? Stitching and beads and some French knots, which I adore.

 I already had some strandable silk floss that will work for this. I love it when that happens.
Then there's this amazing sweater, given to me by Sharon. She said she'd had it for years and was going to—gasp!—cut it up to use to make pin cushions but then thought of me and thought I might want to cut it up and do something with it, and when she handed it to me, I squealed and put it on and wore it for the rest of the week. Even though it's wool, it doesn't make me itch, which is a first. It's light but warm, and I LOVE it. And of course I immediately thought of what I could add to it and came home and dug out the bin that's labelled BRIGHT FELT (there's one labelled DULL FELT, too, I think, but I never open it) and picked out these scraps of wool felt (most of which I fulled myself from thrifted clothing). I'm totally jazzed about working on this, too. Janice told me how to wash it, and I did that yesterday, with no disasters.

 Then there's Julianna Hudgin's Jewel Loom. Julianna taught Tonia Jenny how to use it in Mississippi (all of these are Art is You retreats, of course), and then Tonia taught me in Petaluma, where she gave me a bracelet she'd woven from bits of sock yarn. I fell in love with it and got just the teeniest bit obsessed about this. Here you can see my standard operating procedure, where I can't rest with just one. I have a loom Tonia gave me and one Julianna gave me and then four more I bought. I work on all of them at the same time, but I finished them all in Stamford and am ready to start new ones. I've made about a dozen of these woven bracelets so far, and it's time to branch out and experiment further. Eventually I want to weave a bag out of strips of t-shirts, but I'm taking my time and learning stuff (about tension, stretch, finishing the ends, etc) and using up various bits of floss.
 Today I dug around int he storage building and found my big of FIBERS (the bins are all helpfully labelled in all caps), and there was a bunch of silk ribbon and some cool yarn, and here I've made piles of it by color and am going to start mixing textures to see what will happen. I'll show more about this adventure soon.

 Then here's my pattern for the new aprons, which I adore. The aprons, not the pattern. I've got to hang it up instead of rolling it, though, so it's ready to go for a TON of experiments in the next couple months. First I want to make a purple linen one (I already have the dyed linen ready to go) and then a sample out of silk.
 For right now, I'm going to use the silk sari pieces I like less to make an experimental apron and see how the silk works for these. I may have to back it with some thin cotton, since the silk is old and fragile, but we'll see. When I figure out how to do it, I'll make something out of this, which I love:

So this is what I've got spread out all over the house this morning. I got a zillion loads of laundry done yesterday, and today I'm doing towels and starting on the mound of rugs that got cat barf on them while we were gone.

Life is grand, and I'm so jazzed about all these ideas I've got racing around in my brain I can't stand it. An example: my friend Chris Malone gave me bags of animal fur—he used to work at a zoo—for needle felting. I didn't use it for that, and now I'm wondering if I could learn a really simple spinning technique, maybe with a drop spindle [Disclaimer: I've watched only the first 3-4 minutes of this, so if she gets nekkid and dances with a crocodile later on in the video, it's not my fault, OK?], to spin it and then weave it into cuffs. Or! Or I could order roving from DharmaTrading, and dye it, and then spin it! OR! I could get a herd of llamas and a spinning wheel and. . . OK, I have to stop here. Every time I think of the word "llama" it makes me think of Obama's Mama's Llama Pajamas, which for some reason my brain made up when Obama was elected. It's such a fabulous name, and there are so few rhymes. This seemed to make my brain very happy, and it still finds it entertaining, pathetically.

So maybe I'll get a herd of goats, instead.

Anyway, time to take a walk and let my brain rest a little and then come back and iron some silk and cut out some stuff and pull out even MORE crap and then feel guilty when The EGE comes home from school and can't even walk through his own damn house without turning sideways. Luckily he doesn't mind that, so I suck it up and deal with the guilt and pull out even more, and more and more and more. Yay! for messes.