Friday, July 31, 2009


Weave-It Loom

The other day Mark and I went to a small flea market in Lyme, NH where our friend Marianne McCann was selling some work. She had this little box labelled Weave-It, and when I opened it I found a gold metallic cloth that was three-quarters done on the loom. It was sort of like a pot holder loom but finer. She insisted on giving it to me, and my greedy little hands accepted gladly. I did help her the next day on her gypsy wagon (we traced and cut out the ribs for the roof), so in a way it was a Vermont barter transaction, except she really did give it to me with no strings attached (except the ones on the loom).

Working on Weave-It Loom

When I googled this loom, I found several sites with information, including booklets about projects and instructions. Apparently the loom came with a needle, which mine was lacking. But I had several long needles up in my studio that I always wondered about. I thought they were netting needles. I have no idea where or when I got them, but they certainly have moved with me from one state to another to another. So I went and got them and used one of them to finish the cloth. The previous maker had made some mistakes in her plain weave, and maybe I made a few too. I definitely heard myself saying, "no wonder someone came up with a heddle system," and "I would already be done if I wove this on my floor loom."

Detail of needle weaving on a Weave-It Loom

Of course, I can't stick my floor loom in my purse, but i can take the Weave-It with me anywhere. It also has the advantage of making a cloth with four selvedges. On-line you can see some projects where people assembled these little squares into afghans and sweaters. It reminds me of crocheted vests I made in the '60's. It also reminds me that I have about six knitting projects partially done that I can also stick in my purse and take with me. I wonder where I am going that I need portable projects?

Finished first, and maybe last, Weave-It project

I finished my Weave-It cloth (collaboration with an unknown weaver) and promptly made it into a collage birthday card for Edith House. There was a surprise birthday party for her at Red Hen Baking Co. in Middlesex, VT yesterday. I should have had my camera ready when she arrived--her face was appropriately pleased, shocked and surprised. Lucky for all of us she thought she was coming to a small weaving studio group, and had brought a stack of her latest weavings--beautiful silk rag scarfs. Our society makes it difficult to see the numbers increasing as we get older (a friend suggested feinting dyslexia which would make the number more palatable) but I think it is like getting a higher grade in a test--you don't get an A until you reach 90. Edith isn't there yet but her life is an exemplary A+.

Life in New Mexico was full of great bread. I could cry just thinking about Sage Bakery. But Red Hen is a good substitute and yesterday, at Holly's suggestion, I bought their sprouted grain rye bread (Sprouternickle), which is only made on Thursdays, and it went perfectly with the lentil soup we had for dinner.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Testing Lampas

Lampas tests on TC-1 loom

I wove these tests of lampas on Sunday. I used the lampas structures from The Woven Pixel that are designed for a warp ratio of 3 ground ends to 1 pattern end, and a rotation of three wefts (1 ground weft and 2 pattern wefts). I was trying to see if it made a difference if I designed full width (880 ends), for just the ground warp (660 ends), or for the units of 3 ground warps to 1 pattern warp (220 ends). After putting in the structures, I expanded each test by three in the height (the number of picks) because I used three wefts. I didn't really notice much difference except the obvious one that designing on only 220 ends made my writing cruder. I did use different size yarns in the tests, so the picks per inch differed in each example. I think if I started with a digital image and then reduced it, I might have seen more variation than here, where I drew my designs.

Detail of lampas showing longer floats of my pattern warps in the ground structure

I always weave lampas with the pattern warp end that will tack the pattern ends raised over the ground weft. It means my ground structure (a 4/1 satin) is modified by these floats, which show up as a twill line (since they weave a 1/2 twill). Depending on the angle of viewing, and how the light hits the cloth, this disruption of the satin hardly shows, or clearly shows. I could weave two layers in that area, keeping the pattern warp and wefts to the back, but I like it this way.

Tomorrow I am going to test a design using 4 wefts. This always happens, I do these tests, then when I start some "real" work, the tests are irrelevant. I am going to start at 120 picks per inch and then modify my image depending on what I find. I have been playing with modifying colors in my image in Index Mode/Color Table, to get a sense of the colors I plan to use--but I won't really decide until I see them woven. I do like the quality of this warp very much and am glad I decided to postpone putting on another black and white tencel warp (though I have a 10 yard warp wound and ready to go).

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Elizabeth Billings at Fleming Museum

Exhibition of work by Elizabeth Billings at Fleming Museum

Today I drove up to Burlington with Elizabeth Billings to see her show, The Ties That Bind, at the Fleming Museum, and to hear her give a public talk about her work. The show is up until October 4th and if you are in the area, you really must go see it. Liz is a person with true integrity, and her talk poignantly shared experiences that have helped her shape a life for herself and her family that honors and extends generations of principles connected to and respectful of nature.

Elizabeth Billings at the exhibition of her work

Liz's work often incorporates poetry, or meaningful language. In a series of "handtowels" called Handprint Series, she incorporated one-line entries from a diary written between 1850 - 1865 by Harriet Warren Vail. These pithy remarks ("just the facts, ma'am") capture a busy life, by necessity in tune with the seasons, but also they show us an awareness appreciative of the changes of the elements. It is wonderful to discover the diary on display along with Billings' work at the Fleming.

Diary of Harriet Warren Vail

Part of the Handprint Series by Elizabeth Billings

On opposing walls, you can see two of Liz's monumental pieces, Wall of Ancestors, done in the late '80's, and a Sapling piece, done this year. Before anyone was doing or talking about woven shibori, Liz was gathering areas of her work to create texture. She takes strip weaving to a new dimension, using the repetition of ikatted skulls, to remind us of the generations that came before us.

Wall of Ancestors by Elizabeth Billings

detail of Wall of Ancestors by Elizabeth Billings

In many of her public art pieces, Liz has removed bark from saplings and branches, making magnified ikat threads out of the wood. The beauty of her newest work, with the organic flow of the branches contrasting the delineated line of the bark that remains (the resisted area of an ikat thread), and the scale of the work, which fills an entire museum wall, is not given justice in my photograph below.

Sapling sculpture by Elizabeth Billings

It was a beautiful day in Vermont, and Liz's thoughtful talk made me really aware of the beauty around me as I sat on my porch when I got home, rocking, enjoying the warmth, and the light, and the smell of freshly mowed grass, and even the little bugs swarming and biting. Just in case you think I am having too much fun, not enough work, I did finish my own "ties that bind" and wound the new warp back on the TC-1. Much to my relief, it wasn't just three yards, but 6 yards in length. I bought this silk, 60/2 (I think, but maybe it is 20/2--I will have to search my files), from Redfish at the Surface Design Conference in 2007, and wound the warp in Arizona in the spring of 2008, before we moved to Vermont. Tomorrow I will have to see if I have those crossed threads that have been worrying me the whole time I was tying knots, or not. I hope it is "or not."

Silk warp wound back on TC-1--waiting to discover if threads are crossed or not

Here is an image of the view in front me on the road home from Tunbridge Hill Farm on Monday, when I went to get my farm share. Being part of a CSF is one of the highlights of summer in Vermont. This is our second year participating, and it just gets better. You can see the fresh garlic and radishes that were part of this week's share.

Cows moving from one pasture to another

Produce from Tunbridge Hill Farm, Tunbridge, VT

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Jam Making

Here is Holly and I starting to make raspberry jam yesterday (see raspberry picking in last blog entry). We met at her house, and our friend Laurie Sverdlove joined us. She took the first three pictures in this sequence.

Bhakti and Holly beginning jam making

We used Pomona's Pectin and basically followed the recipe in the box. The suggested amount of sugar was a variable, with 2 cups per batch as maximum, and we decided to half that. Since we had 4 batches we used 2 cups of sugar, but at the end we concluded that could be cut in half again, next time.

Berries cooking

We also referenced the book I bought the previous day, Preserving the Harvest by by Carol Costenbader. She has excellent drawings and clear descriptions about the canning process. Since we were novice jam makers, we referred to her book at each step.

Holly listening as I read from Preserving the Harvest

Between my canning pot, and Holly's pots, we had everything we need, and more. I had bought a new thermometer thinking we would need it, but in the end we just watched and timed.

Jars, lids and jam on stove

Laurie tasting for sweetness, Holly waiting her verdict

Jars filled with jam, ready for covers and boiling in jars

Finished jars of raspberry jam

The final jam looks great. Amazingly we had exactly enough for the 12 jars we had purchased, with just a tiny bit left over which we will all share tonight with ice cream. Our three families are getting together for a casual pot luck (I can't stop raving about how lucky we were to move to Randolph and meet these wonderful people), and besides sharing the jam, we are going to tell each other stories from our past. As Laurie said, we didn't grow up together, so we each have long and interesting lives to share with each other. I don't think we can do this chronologically, each person will need a week, but perhaps story by story we will get glimpses into each other that is not obvious on the surface, but has gone into making us who we are.

My co-author of The Woven Pixel, Alice Schlein was interviewed by Syne Mitchell for her podcast, and you might want to listen. I appreciate that Syne corrected a comment made on her last podcast that implied Alice wrote the book herself. We really were co-authors, without one person leading and the other following, though of course there were areas where this happened--but on the whole, we were absolutely equal partners in this venture. Each of us devoted two years of our lives to writing the book--and though Photoshop has come out with two new versions since publication, the book is still valid and, I believe, invaluable. I also think it is rare for two people to work on a long-term project together without some negative residue--but in this case Alice and I just became better and better friends, with great admiration for each other. She is currently finishing work on her latest book about Photoshop and Dobby Looms, and as soon as it is published, I will post more information.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Raspberry Picking

Raspberry picking at Sunshine Valley Organic Berry Farm

Holly and I went to Sunshine Valley Organic Berry Farm in Rochester, VT today to pick raspberries. I have been checking the website and calling to check the conditions--and today was perfect. Rob Meadows, co-owner with his wife Patricia Rydle, showed us where to start and you can see him and Holly in the before picture above left--berries on the bush in the center--and the after picture. I did take a picture of all 16 boxes full of the berries we picked--but I must have have done something wrong since it didn't show up when I downloaded the images. I just froze some for the winter and tomorrow will get together with Holly and make jam. It is a learning experience for both of us. I pulled out my big canning jar--which I have only used for natural dyes, and bought a new book on food storage (freezing, canning, pickling, etc.). Last summer I was overwhelmed watching my Vermont friends grow and store vegetables, fruit, and chickens, wondering how they learned these amazing skills, and feeling I could never manage it myself. But now I think, little by little. So raspberries first, and in a few weeks the blueberries will be ready and I can pick, freeze and can them.

Bees at Sunshine Valley Organic Berry Farm

In one corner of the farm there was this enclave of bees. Somehow it reminded me of that famous quilt where the woman had a picture of a graveyard and on the edges were names or markers with names of people, and as they died she would move them into the central graveyard. Mark and/or I walk almost daily in the cemetery down the street from our house since it is such a nice place to take our dog. As newcomers to the town, I don't know any of the people buried there, but I walk by their graves and read their names, and the dates of their death, and sometimes of their birth, and honor their presence, and their passing. Walking the raspberry lanes today was a quiet, private time and I kept thinking each berry was like the millions of people that inhabit the world today. Similar but unique; ripening at their own pace so within a clump of berries only a few could be picked; a burst of joy, and then gone. I hope Rob and Patricia have included the berries that never get weighed into their pricing--the ones that fell to the ground and the ones that fell into my belly.

Blueberries almost ripe at Sunshine Valley

By early August the blueberries will be ripe, and I will return to Sunshine Valley and pick a bucket full. Last summer Mark and I went and we froze most of them, and enjoyed them during the winter. So if I get my jam making down, this year we can have both frozen ones (great with oatmeal) as well as jam.

By the way, I did start work this week. I am tying a silk warp to the black and white tencel on the TC-1. For some reason, it is taking me forever. I am going from the 15 dent reed back to the 30 dent reed. I made a cross in front of the 15 dent reed, and placed the 30 dent reed in the grove above the 15 dent reed, and am moving them from bottom reed to top, by twos, and then tying knots, following color. Somehow my mind keeps saying I am doing something wrong, but I am not sure. I am wondering if I am crossing the ends and when I am all done if I will have to redent because of that? I hope I am wrong since seeing the dents in the 30 dent reed is impossible with my trifocals. Basically I have to wear my glasses to choose the threads, then I have to push my glasses up so I can see the dents without the glasses, then I have to put the glasses back to choose the next two ends. For relief I am going to one of my macomber looms which is threaded with a thick cotton and weaving dishtowels--plain weave with a band of turned twill blocks at each edge.

My garden continues to inspire me every day.

Asian Lilies in my garden

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Settling Back into Home/Future Commitments

It's been a busy week, settling back home, considering some future commitments, and having lots of social engagements. Walks with friends, returning to the gym, dinners with friends have all been great, but now I am getting cranky. I know that means it is time to return to my studio work. The quiet and focus of my own work is my balancing mechanism. Tomorrow for sure. Meanwhile I will share some of this week's activities. Below is the view from Geof (standing) and Holly's (sitting right) back porch, where we enjoyed a dinner, sat by their fire pit and watched the sunset.

Enjoying sunset with friends

Mark and I went to the Hood Museum in Hanover, NH this week. They have an exhibition of Indonesian textiles up until August 31 and it is very inspiring. I plan to go back and sketch, but I wanted to have a quick look in terms of one of my future commitments, which is to demonstrate some of the textile methods used by four groups of Indonesian peoples in conjunction with an exhibit that will be mounted by the Bard Graduate Center. The Study Day Weaving Power: Meaning, Methods, and Materials of Island Southeast Asian Textiles program in which I will be involved will take place on November 6th. In the morning the curator of the exhibition, Florina H. Capistrano-Baker will walk the participants through the show. Then I will demonstrate some of the weaving processes used to make these cloths, followed by lunch, and then a trip to the MET for a presentation at the Antonio Ratti Textile Center by Christine Giuntini, textile conservator. It is going to be a wonderful day and if you are interested in participating or getting more information, please contact Rebecca Allan, Head of Education (if you click on her name it will bring you to a site with her email address).

Catalog from exhibition at Hood Museum

If you have been following my blog, you know I am into food. I was almost ecstatic to have dim sum and Korean food in Chicago, and was talking to Holly about it one day. She didn't know about dim sum, and I went on and on about how delicious it is, and how time consuming to make, and how sad that we don't have it here. Then I went home and found this ad in the newspaper for a restaurant in Burlington that is serving Sunday dim sum! Is this proof that if you ask, you will receive? Then after visiting the Hood, Mark and I went to check out Yama, which I vaguely remembered hearing about. We had their bulgoki lunch box, and I immediately went home and emailed some friends to arrange another trip to Yama and the Hood.

Hope for me in Vermont

Today we went to Chelsea (just over the mountain) for their annual Flea Market. Chelsea is a very beautiful town with two village greens. Both were full of vendors and this usually quiet small town was overflowing with people. I get overwhelmed by too much stuff and though we want/need a dresser and some chairs, and this was probably the ideal place to find them, we left empty-handed. We did see some interesting objects, including a wooden wheel chair and a sewing table that had a ruler drawn onto the surface.
Chelsea Flea Market

Wooden Wheel Chair

Detail of sewing table with ruler drawn on surface

I am reading two books lent to me by friends, both on the impending or perhaps already present collapse of the world as we know it. Sara Tucker, who has one of the most curious minds I know, and who shares her curiosity with readers on her blog, The Aggregator, lent me Sacred Demise by Carolyn Baker. Baker says there is no equivocating about it, the collapse is here. World Made by Hand, by James Howard Kunstler, lent to me by Marianne McCann, is a novel that so clearly describes the collapsed world that I have been walking around visualizing everything around me without electricity, without internet, without government. It tempted me to buy every hand tool I don't already own that was on sale at the Flea Market today. It also makes me think that being a weaver is going to be a good trade in the future. I am also thinking that using raw milk in my yogurt and cooking is not only delicious, but familiarising myself with the future. We not only got fresh milk today at Howe Farm in Tunbridge (just south of Chelsea) but we got some farm-raised meat too. This aspect of Vermont, knowing where your food is coming from, can not be beat.

I have been watching the counter on the lower-right of my blog, Neo-Counter. I am always surprised to see the numbers increase, and how many countries are represented. Sara's blog mentions 143 countries in a recent survey, WorldAtlas says there are 189 to 195 independent countries depending on your biases, and Bob Dylan says 193 on his Theme Time Radio Hour Around the World Show. I wonder how I can get hits from all 195 countries? It reminds me of family road trips where we always tried to find one liscense plate from every state. It seems to me it was always hard to find one from Vermont. Maybe it is so beautiful here, people just don't have to go anywhere else--or, I had to move here to finally log the state plate. When I logged on to write this, my count for the blog was 40 countries, and 2558 visitors. Of course, I didn't put the counter on until about a month ago, so that is really higher. Maybe that is like debating 193 or 195 countries.

When I was in Chicago I had a chance to meet Kathy O'Neal, who is helping Brother Kim with the Colloquy 2009. The information about this gathering is on the right side of this blog. It is going to be held October 12-15, 2009. Kathy and I discussed past Colloquy and what I should do as this year's presenter. I am going to do a lecture on my life as a weaver, as well as a presentation on contemporary jacquard and my use of the TC-1, and I will also do a demonstration on designing for a TC-1 using Photoshop. If you want to join us, please contact Kathy. This is a rare opportunity to gather with a small group of people obsessed with weaving and looms. I think the conversations can get quite heated about things like tying treadles or maybe how to read drafts--the kind of thing that you just can't discuss with everyone. Maybe you don't want to talk about such things, but I always love hearing how other weavers think and act.

Kathy O'Neal talking to me about Colloquy 2009

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Home for July 4th

July 4th parade in Randolph despite rain

I arrived at the Burlington Airport around 1am on July 4th and we drove home in a deluge of rain. Mark said it has been like this for almost the entire three weeks that I was gone, and everyone else has mentioned the constant rain too. December was in the car, and as she always does when I have been gone, she greeted me with total joy and lots of licks and wagging of her tail. I felt the same joy myself. It is so good to be home. Dylan and Mali came out of their hiding places and have been following me around ever since.

Dylan and Mali on different tables

July 4th parade is a big deal in Randolph and it goes right past our house. Last year we saw the parade from our corner, but since we were not occupying the house yet, we didn't have the front row seats on the porch. This year we enjoyed the view, as well as the shelter from the rain, and were joined by some friends. I think the rain kept some people and animals from participating in the parade (I missed the oxen) but it was still a festive event with lots of applause for the various floats and marching segments.

Chimney extension hiding insert, stove and this year's woodpile

Immediately on entering the house I could notice things that were done while I was gone. We had an insert put down the chimney for the kitchen woodstove, and the stove was moved over and now has a taller stovepipe, which brings additional heat into the room (we had a fire going last night). The people that did the instillation made a nice extension on the chimney that hides the metal pipe coming out of it. Mark also got another load of wood and stacked it himself. This year we have four cords, since we will only use the kitchen woodstove, not the basement one. Next year we will figure out what to do for heating this house more efficiently, but this summer the big renovation will be getting a new roof.

Mark and Dylan and Mali in shadow

The best part of yesterday was the potluck dinner that our friend Sara hosted at our house in the evening. Sara had three friends visiting from NYC, and she also bumped into a childhood friend who was visiting Randolph from Vancouver, so she invited her too--plus of course us and two other couples--which brought the festivities to 13 and by the end of the evening it felt like 13 people who had known each other for years. Sara and the others brought an amazing feast, and all we had to do was provided the space and plates. I couldn't have asked for a better July 4th celebration. I am so happy to be back in Randolph, VT!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Chicago Goodbyes

Day Lilies near Millennium Park

Each morning and afternoon I tried to vary my walk between apartment and school, though often it took me through Millennium Park. Yesterday I noticed this cluster of day lilies was in spectacular bloom, and it was a marker of the passage of time that I have been in Chicago. Three weeks earlier there weren't even noticeable buds on the lilies. I felt it was like a metaphor for my class. Many of the students had never dressed a loom before we began, and now they were all busy weaving. They certainly bloomed in these three weeks.

Joan Livingstone and Park Chambers on the ramp of the New Wing of the Chicago Art Institute

If you visit Chicago be sure and make time to visit the New Wing of the Chicago Art Institute. The collection of modern art shows very well in this new space. It also has a wonderful restaurant, and I had lunch there yesterday with Joan Livingstone and Park Chambers. They were colleagues in the Fibers and Material Studies Department at SAIC for many years, though right now Joan is Interim Dean of Undergraduate Studies and Park has retired and moved to New York State. They have both contributed much to the expansion of thinking in fiber studies and work, and are mentors to many artists. I could hardly eat my meal from excitement, but did manage to finish all my dessert and taste theirs too. Joan was wearing the best eyeglasses.

Final jacquard cloth from SAIC class cut off loom today

So today was the final class and I cut off the fabric from the TC-1 while students finished weaving and hemming, or knotting, or twisting ends. In the afternoon we did a final review where each student put up all the work they accomplished in these three weeks. I took a digital image of each of them and their work, and tried to get some details too. I have decided that when I get home I will do a slideshow of the images I took during the class and post a link to it in this blog. Believe me, they all did incredible work, and each one distinct from the others. At the end, one of them took a picture of me holding the plain weave linen that I wove. Although I am ready to go home and can't wait to see Mark, our pets, and our friends, I felt so emotional saying goodbye to these wonderful women who allowed me the privilege to work with them these past three weeks. In a regular semester you don't get to know people in the same way as we did because of the format of the summer program. I don't know if any of them will continue to weave as a major expression of their art (I wish I had a crystal ball), but I do know that the metaphor of blooming lilies is a good one for what happened in this class.

Tamara Malas showing her first ever weavings

Bhakti Ziek showing off the linen she wove