Fulfilling a promise


I’ve been so busy weaving that I forgot to realize that I am fulfilling a promise I made to myself when I first set up my floor loom.

This project, Dreaming myself Awake, is the ten yard black warp that I promised myself in 1985.

Except that it it has a few purple stripes in it. Except that it’s 14 yards long.

Numbers have always been a bit ethereal to me. I have no idea why I’ve believed all these years that my warping board measures a ten yard warp. Maybe because it should. Maybe because when I was a costumer and was buying fabric to have in stock in the studio, I always bought a ten-yard length. Maybe because it’s an easy and comfortable number.

Does it matter?

Not really. The piece of cloth I am weaving was always too long for the garment I have in  mind. Now, its just that much longer. The ten yard promise was just my way of saying a long piece of cloth that could be as many things as it wanted to be. It is beginning as a complex tapestry of more than thirty different yarns. It may end as something completely different.

I think I’ve completed two yards of cloth. There’s much more fun ahead of me.

Keep on with your dreams.———————-

three-day studio retreat

In a last-minute change of plans, Edelweiss kitty and I are not going away for the weekend. I am having a three-day studio retreat instead. This retreat may not be as self-contained as most, as I have not prepared any food, gathered any supplies, or set my intentions in advance. Usually I have some idea of what is going to happen before I begin. This will be refreshing and different. I’ve even arranged to spend some social time with two other fiberistas. Retreats do not have to be solitary events, and taking small amounts of time to discuss and share can enhance the experience.

I am still going to write up my intentions in a retreat plan, otherwise the weekend may disintegrate into mundane tasks. I am keeping with the theme of awakening, which resounds with me in both creative and spiritual ways.

Suddenly Awake

a three-day studio retreat


I have been given the gift of three days, and my studio is filled with works-in-progress and some new opportunities. In this retreat, I will leap, unprepared, into new techniques, and use them to complement my works-in-progress. I am suddenly awake to all the possibilities and eager to explore new things. I see my works-in-progress as living, changing projects and give myself permission to bring my new experiences to them.

Day 1-Indigo

  • Opening meditation
  • Explore an indigo vat–mix an indigo dye vat, and while the chemical reduction is taking place, collect yarn, fiber and fabric to be dyed. Try plant and animal fibers, and use wooden templates and rubber bands to make simple shibori patterns on fabric.
  • Weaving–continue to weave Dreaming Myself Awake and incorporate any Saori technique that reflects what is on my mind today.
  • Journaling
  • Evening meditation

Day 2-Spinning

  • Morning meditation
  • Spin samples of the fiber that was dyed on Day 1
  • Spin samples of fibers that used to be difficult to spin. How do they spin now?
  • Explore a new art yarn technique
  • Weaving–continue to weave Dreaming Myself Awake and incorporate any Saori technique that reflects what is on my mind today.
  • Journaling
  • Knitting and dinner with Stephanie at 6:30
  • Evening meditation

Day 3-Indigo

  • Morning meditation
  • Explore the possibilities of over-dying colored fabric, yarn and fiber.
  • Weaving–continue to weave Dreaming Myself Awake and incorporate any Saori technique that reflects what is on my mind today.
  • Fiber swap and (TBD) with Jo
  • Journaling
  • Closing meditation

See you in a few days–I’m on retreat!

Lightly woven

I couldn’t end the day under the weight of just plain words. Instead, have a breeze. A zephyr. A bit of lightly woven fabric to float past your eyes, tickle your nose, and flow into your heart.

IMG_0634I am particularly tickled by the streamers of sari silk ribbon. It’s important for cloth to flutter like the tail of a kite. Like a banner in the wind.


You’ve seen what I am weaving, and now some thoughts on why


This part of my life feels like a long and slow transition.  I know that in a couple of years, I am planning to move back to the country. I’m going to give up the job and and live a simpler, more contemplative life. I can see a few friends shaking their heads and wondering how. I already live a life that most people think is simple and contemplative, but I am in a location that is losing its appeal as each day goes by.  I am tired of roads clogged with cars and more tired of being surrounded by heedless people rushing so much to the next thing that they never experience the present moment.

Where I see the transition happening most is in the things I own, especially clothing and household goods. I don’t want to buy anything unless it will serve a dual purpose, for now and then, for here and there. I want to gradually use up all that no longer serves me, and not replace it with more of the same. I want to step out of this current way of living, leaving behind a pile of worn out black clothing, like the cocoon of some strange moth. I want to wear wrinkly linen dusters in spring and baggy woolen tunics in winter.

I do not want to arrive then and there, half naked and shivering. I need clothing for the journey and for the arrival, things that will be gently worn but not worn out.

I feel like I need to set out with a trunk filled with clothing and dish towels, cushion covers and blankets–all home made.  Much hand spun. LIke a bride setting out into her marriage, with her dowry chest. Only I will be a mature woman journeying into the rest of my life, with my trunk packed full of slow cloth.

This is the awakening that Dreaming Myself Awake represents.

I think I know why I am not just going to leave tomorrow. I still have many things to learn. It’s a well-kept secret that I don’t really know how to cook. I know how to heat up lots of things and make them taste original and exciting, but I only know how to make a few things from scratch. I make a wicked good pasta bake, but I don’t know how to make a tomato sauce that tastes like the one in the jar. I may find time to learn how to make slow food, but the weaving comes first.

I don’t know how to weave dish towels either, or how to select the right yarn for them. I am not sure I want to spin cotton or linen, but I need to understand the yarn and how it weaves.

Can I keep myself in hand-knit socks, or will they wear out before the next pairs are done?

Questions are good, because they lead to answers. Transitions are good, because I will arrive slowly and gently at where I want to be, step by mindful step.

approaching fabric and fit

Yesterday, I found myself saying that I wish I’d had the vision of simple rectangular garments in mind when I was a student at Parsons School of Design. I feel that my work might have fulfilled my vision better had I figured this out early on.  But, we were under constant bombardment to design what the fashion industry expected of us, and to demonstrate all the seams, darts and shaping that was taught in the syllabus.

It’s different now. I am designing clothing for me, and I like boxy, baggy clothing.

The garments I design are meant to complement fabric that has a great deal to say.  Handwoven or patched fabric has a big voice, and it doesn’t benefit from being nipped and trimmed into overly complex constructions.

No pictures today.  I leave you to see what simple garment shapes are in your mind’s eye.


More about Rhinebeck — lots of spindles and finally, a ball winder

Today, I’m going to show you all the wonderful tools that I bought from Golding Fiber Tools. My first top whorl spindle was from the Goldings, so many years ago. I still use it for plying.

Did you see that pair of spindles in the cashmere/silk yesterday?  Here they are again…


In the cloisonné of two cats, silhouetted in the moonlight, I see Amber and Indigo, together again. The silver filigree is just pretty but has no deeper meaning.

IMG_2679This is the ball winder of my dreams, made of walnut and solid metal. It’s quiet and very capable, as well as beautiful beyond all measure. I waited years for this to exist. I believe that tools should be made to last for generations, and that their beauty is a seed for the creation of beautiful cloth.

IMG_2672Back to the spindles again. A silver rose. It reminds me of a house called Mt. Hope; they had lovely roses, once upon a time. It also reminds me that nothing lasts for ever, so live for the joy that is Now.

IMG_2677Yin and yang? Originally, these spindles went home with my friend J., but she said that it was my joy in them that had piqued her interest, and when I asked if she minded that I ordered an identical pair, we decided that hers should come to my studio and that she should have a cloissoné spindle that suited her better. A few years ago, I had a birds eye maple spindle that I did not love, and it went to her in a similar way of finding it’s true home.

When we weren’t shopping, we enjoyed the warm day, admired many people’s handmade finery, ate Artichokes French, and had the best apple crisp at the 4H booth. The secret to good apple crisp is using a variety of apples, some sweet and some tart, some soft and some firm.

Ten days later, Hurricane Sandy blew in and changed everything.



From Rhinebeck to refugee

January is a third gone, and I am just getting around to posting the highlights from last October’s NY Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck. You can blame Hurricane Sandy for that. I am still a refugee of sorts, because my place of work took a direct hit from the hurricane and we are nowhere close to moving back in. I work from home and I spend a few days a week in a temporary office across the river. It’s a situation to be endured, and I’d rather focus on hand spun and home made.

Rhinebeck 2012 deserves to be remembered, because it was a wonderful day, filled with fiber and fun. We have found a rhythm that works, visiting two or three “must see” vendors, and then poking around at our leisure. Actually, this is how my mother and I used to do it. I think it comes naturally when you become familiar with the festival.

My must see vendors are Loop and Golding Fiber Tools.

Let’s start with the fiber:

1 lb. of Three Ring Circus from Loop. This is one of my favorite color blends, so I bought it again this year. It’s black with Everything Else in it.


1 lb. of Smitten from Loop doesn’t have me totally smitten, but it will do for the plainer sections of Dreaming Myself Awake. I wish it had more neps and noils for texture.


4 oz. of cashmere/silk from Spirit Trail Fiberworks. This type of fiber is out of character for me, but the color is magnificently shaded and the cashmere ensures that the yarn is soft and very lofty. I’m going to need some plain accessories to go with the high-impact fabrics I weave.  As you can see, I’m using drop spindles with this fiber, which is still my best way to spin a fine, even yarn.


Hopefully this fiber, and the small backlog I have from past years, will keep me busy through 2013. I know there are other festivals, and I know I could always shop on Etsy for some beautiful art yarn batts, but I generally don’t. It would weaken the mystique of Rhinebeck.


First threads of a Dream

And so, I began to fill in the weft. Dreaming Myself Awake has been a basket full of yarn for a long time, since a hot summer day in 2011 when I realized that a half dozen balls and skeins of leftover yarn had a purpose and a name. I know I gave away a year along the way, in service to Occupy Wall St. and in Being There for two beloved cats.  It doesn’t matter, this is the Now where the fabric takes shape.

It’s going to be an unruly fabric to photograph as a work in progress.  I am weaving a slightly gauzy fabric at 4 epc, with the warp being beat according to my mood and the needs of the thread that is in hand. The colors are nuanced, and the camera wants to make them garish and strange, with a honeyed undertone from the old maple loom.

It looks like this, kind of. Let’s say it feels like this.


Well, almost like this. The threading error down the middle has been painstakingly fixed. Usually I leave such things in place, as part of the whim of freestyle weaving.  Sometimes I create dense stripes on purpose, by doubling the sett for just a little area.  Or gauzy stripes by spreading the warp further apart.  I don’t know.  This looked too centered. It interfered with the lively purple stripe, and dragged it down into an unhealthy stasis. It had to go.

Don’t you love the heathery blue/purple/burgundy section?  It’s a balanced single that I spun from a Loop Spontaneous Spinning Cloud. These clouds spin like an absolute dream, especially because I would rather spin woolen than worsted, and create a fine, lofty yarn rather than a ‘stainless steel wire’, as Judith Mackenzie describes worsted spun yarn.

I am giddy with the joy of creating new fabric. I am keeping mum about what the finished garment will look like.  Let’s just say that you could call it a tunic or a jumper (American usage, not British), and that it will look stunning over a turtleneck and leggings.