Does anyone else have a thing about bags -- that deal where you can't imagine leaving home, much less making it through a trip, without having your elemental stuff in the perfect bag?
Or maybe you think you're set with a satchel that is comfortable to carry and has room for all the essentials (flashlight, mug, pocket hang glider, ear plugs, spindle, pencils, dictionary, novel, etc), but then you start a new project
that generatesa bunch of material you absolutely MUST have with you at all times to survive whatever the future brings
which means that the extra large custom spindle case must be called into action
and the bag you were counting on is too small and the one that might work still needs mending
and is not, truth to tell (thanks to previous scattershot approach to reinforcing disintegrating fabric),
the most sophisticated thing you've ever made, much less mended?
Well that never happens to me...
My spindle and I just got back from visiting my son in Sandpoint, Idaho, a small town on the shores of the largest lake in the state and a sensible place to live if you happen to be an Idaho boatbuilder. And summer (Happy Solstice by the way --summer or winter depending on your hemisphere), by the water is generally pretty boat-centric if you are thus inclined.
But sometimes boatbuilders (or boat menders as the case often is when your boats of choice are made out of wood), whose mothers are obsessive spindle spinners, can't resist trying other things with interesting scraps in the stash, and a couple of days ago I actually got to watch a few Hepty spindles being finished.
(It turns out I'm too distracting for focused boat work, which makes sense as my work also comes to a screeching halt when anyone is around, and is also
1. a good reason to keep my visits short, because who wants to slow work in progress?
2. a good reason to keep a spindle handy wherever I am, so I never have to fully stop working .)
As some of you know, I've been seriously into these spindles for the last year and a half or so ago when Henry made his first hepty as an experiment. I was only supposed to test a few design ideas, but fell so hard for this one that it has been my primary spindle ever since and has, among other things, been the tool I used for all the yarn for this cloth.
Henry has now made and sold quite a few of these spindles, and I hope the new owners are as happy with theirs as I have been with mine.
Christened the "Hepty" for the heptagonal shape, they are fast and functional, the perfect tool for making the kind of yarn I like best-- fine, well twisted singles that I sometimes ply (2 or 3 or 4 depending), and sometimes use as is for weaving.
The Hepty is one of the few spindles I've ever had I haven't had to wait for.
One good twirl on my thigh and I can spin a body length of yarn with a decent amount of twist without stopping or needing a second twirl. They are probably not spindles for the beginner as they don't much care for spinning anything thicker than the 7000 ish yards/lb singles that I like best, but that's physics for you. And since I tend to make and use a great deal of the same size yarn, I couldn't ask for anything more. And how else to get work done?
The design has evolved over time:
among other things the spindles now have a longer shaft for easier spinning when the cop gets big, and this is the first batch with spring steel (rather than brass) hooks for extra 'drop' strength (check out the video in this two-image post).
They remain, however, within a gram or two of the original.
Because they are faceted, these spindles won't roll of the table accidentally,
but because each facet is individually finished, the relationship between facet, hook and yarn is subtly different for each spindle. Most spin the most smoothly when the yarn comes from the facet at the back of the hook, but some prefer to go through the hook from left to right, some right to left, and still others want a single twist around. Still others (mine, actually), prefer one facet to the left or right of the back.
But though each one feels subtly different to me depending on hook and wood (amazing the difference a gram or two makes), I'd happily wander off with any one of them because they all feel like the excellent yarn-making tools I find them to be.
Except that I won't, because I'm still so in love with mine that I couldn't bear to cheat on her or hurt her feelings.
All of this sounds like a great deal of flagrant advertising, and I suppose in one sense it is as I cannot help being thrilled that my kid can make such fabulous tools. But since he only makes them when he has time between boat projects, usually just in the winter, and two of the spindles shown above are already spoken for, it's a little silly to 'advertise' now, so mostly I'm writing because I was so tickled to get to hang out in Sandpoint, watch these babes being made, and 'test' them till I ran out of fleece.
That said, though there will probably be quite a wait for the next batch, you can contact him through his Etsy shop and get on his list. And perhaps if said list gets long, and the wood stash gets interesting, and the belaying pins are all in place, and the boat deck gets done...
What is it?
A collection, yes, but a collection of what -- similar objects?
How do you know when you have one?
Can long narrow strips of metaphorical fabric
in a three panel needlepoint comic about chasing dreams
that I stitched several years ago and blogged about here
--a comic that at the time seemed complete unto itself--
morph into other work that is seemingly different
but actually, oddly, the same in spirit?
Well yes, I think it can.
Not that I was thinking about connections as the work unfolded.
I'm rarely that organized.
But looking backwards,
and drawing another comic
leads me to see that work that felt new and wildly unconnected while I was making it
is actually just another step on an undulating path.
So when the deadline looms (pardon the pun),
ready or not (and I'm not, quite),
it feels perfectly reasonable to fit things together,
make an inventory list,
label the tapestries,
roll up the panels of comics,
press the translucent panels of cloth,
bundle it all up,
take off my boots,
and cross the river.
Then eventually, when all is unrolled
and hanging on white walls,
or sweeping through the air
in a light-filled gallery,
we can call it a body of work,
or not -- can't know for sure till it is up.
But either way
it'll be time to lace my boots
and continue on,
where ever it is that I am going.
Or maybe next time I'll just go barefoot.
This morning I made myself a new comic diary.
Back in January I wrote a little about my diary habit/ practice/ addiction;
my hope, then, was that I'd keep using watercolor in my (mostly) daily entries.
So far, this has not been a problem -- indeed adding the color has become one of my favorite parts.
What did become a problem was the paper in the Moleskine notebooks.
Part of my early thinking about the diaries was that if I made them too fancy
I might expect myself to produce something 'good' every day,
and that would be inhibiting.
So instead of books with 'drawing' paper (which I find a little slimy anyway),
I chose the ones with thin lined paper and, coincidentally, the most pages
so I didn't need a new one very often.
This strategy worked very well until the inking/watercolor thing became habit
and I found myself with wrinkled paper, bleeding color and pages torn and taped after a too vigorous erasing of pencil lines.
Taping pages is a hassle.
And I do like water in my watercolor.
Finally, annoyed and brave in equal measure,
I ordered a Moleskine with their 'special' watercolor paper (none in the local book store).
Alas, however, when it finally arrived I was disconcerted to find that it was Landscape rather than portrait format. How had I missed that?
Now I had two things to get used to: new paper AND new layout. Arrrghghghg.
My assumption was that I would like the the paper
but not the stretched out format -- so linear.
As so often happens, however,
what I think I'll like, I don't
and what I don't think I'll like, I do.
Who knew I could put my entire backyard on one two page spread?
But that notebook is almost full (a drawback to thick paper)
and I this morning I had to decide -- re-order or make one.
Happily, I had one piece of Arches 300 lb cold press in the basement
and though not a full sheet, it was exactly divisible by 3 1/2" and 11" (for a 3 1/2" x 5 1/2" book)
It's really nice paper, but I believe I'm now committed enough to this practice to just bliss out on the way the paint skips and dances across the bumps and settles with such richness into the holes. The cold press is not terrific for inking (not like the hot press on the adjacent test page above), but right now it feels just right.
And if i don't like it -- well it'll probably be full in a couple of months (or less),
and I can revisit the question.
And in the meantime: score, tear, fold, score, tear, fold, score, tear, fold...
Such a treat to get to work with my trusty paper tools:
bone folder, beeswax, linen thread, translucent ruler, and my super deluxe hole poker.
Happily, I do not have perfectionist tendencies in the book making realm.
Soon is better than perfect.
But no, that's not true.
Given my fussyness about paper and format, I guess my perfectionist tendencies are reserved for the endless process of refining tools and processes that, however half-assed, are somehow perfect for me.
I feel so fortunate to have these choices,
to be able to commit my angst to paper in a way that somehow helps to make it (the angst), less important, leaving me free to -- well, you know, save the world and stuff.
I cannot stop staring at this cloth.
The way it moves in space is mesmerizing (at least to me),
and the way it feels -- almost like it is not there
Each time I sew these panels together I am newly surprised
by how much pleasure I get from their finished physical presence--
as much, indeed, as I receive from making them..
Perhaps it is because, after years of using value and color
to depict the play of light and air on objects,
my yarn now gets to play these elemental forces all by itself.
And since light has been informing all of the work,
the old and new are connected in an unexpected and essential way,
Or maybe it is not that at all
but rather because I don't really know what it is,
I keep being amazed.
isn't knowing that matters at all,
Back from the lovely show at La Conner,
it is time to turn my attention to my next big event:
"Luminous Cloth" at the Latimer Quilt and Textile Center in Tillamook, OR
3 July - 3 September
reception 9 July from noon - 4 PM
This means it is time to figure out how to hang fabric I've been making all winter.
There are some big decisions:
Hanging rod or no hanging rod?
Flat or draped?
Fringe up, fringe down, no fringe at all -- or all three?
After decades of sending tapestries off to shows around the country, I've got a system down,
part of which involves making the hanging device for each tapestry as soon as it comes off the loom -- usually a structure that holds the tapestry yet lets it float cleanly against the wall.
Last year, obsessed with mobiles as I was, I spent weeks bending wire and messing about with fishing swivels to finally come up with about five different approaches for the show at the Pritchard Gallery, none of which will work this year, alas.
Indeed, since I started making my materials before I even thought about what they would become, much less how they would go together or be displayed, it's back to the drawing board -- or jar of hanging hardware as the case may be.
Like the mobiles I want these to hang out in space so they can interact with the light -- both front and back-- and move with local air currents.
But unlike the tiny but sturdy mobiles these swaths of cloth are large and delicate so need some support sturdier than wire.
Should those supports be round or flat?
Is it best to sew a pocket for a rod, or, as with my tapestries, stitch the cloth to the fabric covered stick?
Do I want to cover the hangy things with fabric at all, or can I paint them?
Must I try both with every one?
The two most important things are that they hang in a way that I like (which isn't necessarily flat),
and that whatever system I use, it is
a. easy for the gallery crew to manage.
b. straightforward to ship
a, however, is more important than b.
so I may have to pay through the nose to get my long narrow boxes to the coast of Oregon.
Should have thought that part out before I sewed them all together eh?
Except that this cloth is very bossy and has led me by the nose through this entire process so I rather doubt I had (or will have), much choice.
At least they don't weigh much and I can do a lot of experimentation with binder clips and clothes pins.
These panels are actually only part of the show.
Soon I'll talk about some of the other work that'll be there
till then --I'll be hammering and sewing.
One of the things I really love about the third floor gallery at the Pacific Northwest Quilt and Textile Museum is the slanted ceilings which allow the tapestries to hang slightly out from the walls, so they can move with the air and cast shadows in all directions.
Indeed, I was so taken with the dynamic feel of this that I mostly took videos rather than still photos, completly forgetting that I can't post them here--
for why else do I take photos if not to share them with you?
Here are a couple of links to Instagram videos though:
Casting Off (@sarahcswett)
Rough Copy (@sarahcswett)
The show itself is lovely.
I can't thank the staff and volunteers at Pacific Northwest Quilt and Textile Museum enough for their kindness, generosity and the glorious job they did hanging the work.
Do visit if you have a chance - and be sure to check out the fantastic thread drawings of Kristin Loffer Theiss on the first floor, and also her website and the video of her drawing with her sewing machine.
One of the best things about exhibitions of course, is the joy of getting see, and even have the odd conversation with friends, old and new, who made the huge effort to come to the reception..
I can't thank you all enough.
I also got to spend extra time with extraordinary artist and friend, Carolyn Doe
and the marvelous Rebecca Mezoff , tapestry weaver and teacher who flew all the way from Colorado so we could share our delight (and ideas and techniques and gossip) about this marvelous thing we happen to do.
My heart is filled with Gleeful Gratitude.
ps -- The air b and b cabin I rented was heavenly,
and the rocks on the shore did not seem to mind me gathering, arranging and then returning them to the beach (I try to be a catch and release rock collector).
Or if they did mind, they were polite about it.
are strewn across the flat surfaces of my studio.
23 individual pieces.
Though by no means all I have woven in the recent past,
together they represent years
of gazing into the warp,
of tapping bits of weft into place,
of making decisions about structure
I'm always after something -- a feeling
a mood, an idea, a story,
and there is so much I could say--
so much I probably already have said--
about finishing edges
and the importance of drape,
about choice of yarn, choice of technique
about slits and joins and hatching and
avoiding the dreaded nipple effect when weaving circles,
about simplicity and complexity (how many bobbins do I want to manage at once?).
and the amazing textures one can imitate with a pile of yarn and a grid.
I actually had a plan earlier this morning to write about the bliss of weaving in the ends as I go so there is virtually finish work at the end and absolutely no "dark side" to any tapestry (I so enjoy the lovely 'clean' backs that I want to share the love...),
but now that I'm here, I'm content
to take funky photos of a few bits of my beloved work--
not neatly pressed,
or beautifully lit as it will be next week,
but sprawled and relaxed,
out of focus, barely illuminated,
imperfect and at ease and perfectly lovely as the cloth that it is--
the cloth I want so much to let it be.
So that must be what I really had to say today!
Two things before I go, however:
1. I probably won't write a blog post next Tuesday as I'll be in La Conner awaiting the opening of the show with these 23 tapestries at the Pacific Northwest Quilt and Fiber Art Museum (reception 3 May from 4-6 Pm), and I haven't figured out how to use the portable Weebly app. There is a good chance, however, I will post things to Instagram so if you want to see the tapestries out in the world and can't get to La Conner this summer, that's the place to go.
2. This show will be the last time that all thirteen of the Rough Copy tapestries will be exhibited together as they will be for sale individually for the first time at and after this show. One, indeed, has already sold. Making the decision to break up the series five years after finishing it is probably worth a blog post all of its own, but for the moment I'll just say that if you are interested in owning one you can contact the Museum starting next Wednesday, or, after the show comes down at the end of July, you can contact me!
sarah.swett1 (at) gmail.com
After seven years of hard wear and two cuff mends,
the bottom of my son's sweater had begun to fray.
Shoulder to cuff is my preferred way to knit sleeves, which makes cuff mending a simple matter of unraveling a few rows and re-knitting (with other yarn if necessary).
The cast on edge of a bottom up sweater is not, however, made for unraveling,
so I went up an inch or so, snipped a strand of yarn, and pulled out one row all the way around, leaving a nice row of stitches to pick up and an inch of sweater to unravel for re-knitting (discarding the yarn from the bottom couple of rounds which was too weak and worn to re-use).
Foolishly, I picked the row right after a cable turn to snip to separate the two sections, so the unraveling was more awkward than it might have been.
But eventually I got it all sorted and reknit and cast off. Starting an inch up means that next time I can unravel right from the cast off end which will be much simpler.
The only drawback to picking up the stitches and going in the opposite direction is that the loops are half a stitch off, but with the cables this really isn't evident.
Nothing miraculous about any of this,
but a good deal of satisfaction in keeping it going, and much pleasure in handling the sweater and the yarn again.
It was a thoroughly-planned garment that began with choosing the fleece (grey Rambouillet X)
and went on to months of spindle spinning,
endless samples plied, yarn dyed, swatches knit and
mailed across several states for perusal and approval.
Final decisions on yarn weight and color led to massive plying (4 ply won out over 3), huge dyepots, much knitting, and even some swatch unraveling at the very end as all those cables used more yarn even than what I thought were overgenerous calculations.
Amazing how much sun fading there has been-- the darker strip at the bottom is the same yarn that I took off, but it shifted just enough when reknit that it appears a different color.
On the other hand, it's amazing how little fading there has been considering how hard this sweater has been worn, and how much it has been out in the weather.
So glad it can now get back to its exciting life.
Sarah C Swett