Friday, March 09, 2018

"Gang Aft A-Gley"

I planned a silk fabric for clothing in black and white stripes: 30's/2 silk sett at 48 EPI. I have lots of cones of silk, all white, which means I will have to dye the black.

I ran the warps, washed them, and set up the dyepot with a 3% solution of black dye. I entered the warps, and here begins the "awry".

The dyepot looked terribly black. It needed just a bit of red, just a bit, which I had on hand, all mixed up. So I dumped some red dye in. That's better! And so, the "black" warps are a nice dark red:

Silk warp

But... herein lies the rub: now it is no longer a "black and white" fabric. Might as well dye the rest:

Many silk warps

The "warps formerly known as black" are at the top in this photo, and the rest are various colors. The warp will still be striped, just not black and white. There is a "little" white though, in the resist areas of one small warp.

Maybe there should be a little black too?

Black silk warp

Look! I managed to dye actual black! It can still be my "black and white" fabric. It just tripped and fell into some color:

Scarp silk

Some things do go as actually planned:

John's lunch box

The minute I saw this silk band, woven by John Mullarkey, I knew how this bag would look.

I had the grey and yellow leather on hand, I knew the shape, a little lunchbox, would be perfect to showcase the band and make for a useful project bag, or storage box, and lo, everything managed to fall into place: the bag is exactly how I imagined it!

Practice is paying off. Getting to mastery is not a straight line, and I am quite sure there will be a few face-plants still left in my future, but the satisfaction of making something exactly as envisioned? Priceless!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Always Learning

I sat in the hot tub this morning in a light misty rain, thinking of the leather bag project I am working on now. Time passed, suddenly a half hour was gone, and my tea was getting cold! I do love that kind of time, and the "making-in-my-mind" as I walk through the steps of the next thing. It occurred to me to wonder what people think about when they are not makers. Do they sit and ponder the world's problems, their own problems, their children's problems? Do they daydream about the next vacation, or the list of chores or errands? What occupies their thoughts, the way that making occupies mine??

I have been busy making. Christmas and gift giving necessitates that photos not be published before the gift is given, of course, and then, suddenly it's February and I have not posted here for many months! So herewith, in no particular order:

I went to Penland in August, to take a class in leather working:

The woman who taught the class makes cowboy boots (!) but the class itself was about inlay and overlay in leather, and I learned a lot! I think I might have been the absolute worst student, in terms of technique, but practice will make it better. I do love the samples I made, warts and all, and I am employing some of the techniques in my bags combining textiles and leather.


Next up is a bag I made for my friend Mollie, using her handwoven printed and stitched cloth for the front pocket. She and I have been weaving friends and personal friends for over 40 years, and we can still talk for hours on end whenever we meet. So, for her birthday, she got a bag! I think she likes it :).

There has been some weaving: two silk fabrics, the first is a scarf because it was a failure for it's intended purpose (part of a jacket, it shrunk too much in width). It makes a great scarf though, so no harm, no foul. The second is the fabric that ended up as part of that jacket, and it is a total success. Also silk, that jacket is in the process of being sewn up now.



Then there are the Christmas presents:


Small bags and a keychain (with a cardwoven tab!), way cute.


And a carry-on size backpack for my son. This was the major project, many hours and many things learned. It works! he's already traveled with it at least once. I love making stuff people will use...

This year, for our Christmas travel, we took the train across half of the country. What a treat! travel was at a human pace, not frantic, with no TSA-driven restrictions, and a leisurely 2 days and nights of scenery slowly ambled by. Meals were excellent, and I lost count of the bald eagles I saw while knitting, sipping a drink, and watching the world out the window from a cosy rocking train. Such a delightful way to get from here to there...this will not be the last time!


Last, coming up in June is the annual meeting for WARP. In September, I met with the organizer to see the venue and help set up the activities around the meeting site, which will be in Decorah, Iowa. As part of the festivities, we will have a reception and tour of Vesterheim, the Norwegian American Museum. We got a sneak peek in the vaults of textiles stored there and oh! be still my heart, I was even allowed to take some photographs:


There will be more textile posts of pieces from the collection, but I'm here to tell you: if you are a textile enthusiast of any stripe, and happen to be in Northeast Iowa, a stop in Decorah at Vesterheim is a must! The range of textiles is astounding, from rugs and tapestries to woven and knitted clothing, bands and mittens, handmade leather shoes! and stockings, socks and gloves. There is always something I can learn from textiles, and to be able to examine them up close? with a docent to put them in cultural context? Brilliant! I can't wait for the annual meeting and this tour!!!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Reading, Again!

First up! Last week's post garnered more than 2! comments, so I have turned to a random number generator. Thanks to everyone for commenting, and I truly do recommend this book if you have any inclination to buy it or put it on your gift list!

Between number 1 and 15 the generator picked...#1! Congratualtions jeekeehoo! You'll need to sned me an address: sara at sara lamb dot com (remove all spaces, etc., yadda yadda).

Further reading: I have cleared out some magazine subscriptions that no longer served me, and found a few new ones. Below are the ones I currently take. For fiber and serious weaving:

Weaving and fiber

Selvedge, for inspiration, Vav for inspiration and weaving information, Fiber Art Now for aspiration, Piecework and SpinOff for tips, tricks, how-to's and news of my community.

Newer more self-published magazines, whose layout, content and graphic presence are clean, readable and inspiring:

New mags

, not a craft magazine per se, but has crafts, gardening/farming, herbs, and thoughtful essays, with a new compilation book of crafts and things to make from their first several years' of publication, KnitWit, and Making, both published by crafters/knitters, both with a clean look and some inspiring work.

and last, if you cook (who doesn't?) my new favorite foody mag:

If you cook .,,

The new project by Christopher Kimball, formerly Cook's Magazine and America's Test Kitchen, now out on his own with this eminently readable and eatable offering!

Most of these are also available at newsstands and good book stores, so you can check them out before subscribing. Or...order a single issue from their websites.

I depend on publications for news and inspiration, and (truth in advertising here) have had work published in some of these over the years. They are mostly daydream publications for me, rather than how-to: I am inspired by the work of others, and sometimes their solutions solve my problems. They are not too "thinky", and do not try too hard to intellectualize what is, for me, and visual and tactile world. Studio work can be lonely and isolated: the people between these pages help me feel connected to the people inhabiting this little corner of the fiber world.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Happy Spinning and Weaving Week!

I have been on a tear in the studio. I have things to do! Things to make! A backlog of ideas which creates a frenzy of activity which breeds more ideas! Happily, the ideas have all been things I could make while using up the stash. Well mostly. Well, OK, I bought some stuff.

But really! Fun! Things! :)

In the past few months I have been on the road more than I have been home. It was mostly just a convergence of events, some I had scheduled, and some beyond my control. So...I have been gone.

Being away from the studio does not mean I had no projects at hand...they were just handwork though, spindles, knitting, some small weaving. Sanity was preserved by these small things, but ...I missed my loom! I missed my spinning wheels! There was very little leather stabbing.

All's well now.

In the many weeks of travel, I also read. I was sent this new book:

Liz's book

It is always fun to read a weaving book (for me) and when the book is full of surprises, more fun! While Liz has written this as a series of projects for the home, and for the rigid heddle loom, the information presented and the projects would make an excellent workbook for any beginning weaver.

There is information about yarns: cotton, wools, linen, hemp and synthetics, yarn choices, setts, many weaving tips and tons of close up photos of the weaving process. Throughout the book are tips on choosing colors, fixing mistakes, and finishing options. A longtime weaver herself, Liz uses common weaving terms, and defines them, so the new weaver is introduced to the jargon she will need when consulting other weavers or weaving books. The projects are practical and beautiful, something any weaver would be proud to use and give.

The last chapter is an in depth discussion, with many photos, of warping the rigid heddle loom in several ways. The process is easily mastered with a RH loom, and all the learning is transferable should one wish to progress to a table or floor loom at any time.

The RH loom is a fabulous entry-level learning tool, takes up much less space than most table looms, or a small floor loom, and is also usually fold-able or easily stored away. An RH loom is quiet enough to be used in a room with other people, without interfering with movies or music, or the sound of the surf on the sands! I resisted using RH looms for a long time, and now, especially this summer, I am so glad I was able to use a Cricket loom while away from home. I did not have to stop weaving, just because I was traveling.

So, grab the book, if you can, and "ta-da!" I have this copy to give away! Just leave a comment that you'd like to receive it, and if two of you reply, I'll flip a coin! If more than two reply, we'll use a random number generator. Be sure to leave me contact info if case you win!

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Plus Four

Four new (small) leather bags!

4 bags

Summer has been busy, with travel, visitors, workshops and conferences. But in between times, I have had a few small bags in process. I can cheerfully say I am getting better! at this leather thing. These are varying degrees of "better", but I am very happy with them. Despite any glitches, they will all be useful, and isn't that at least one of the goals?

1st up, a small tool bag, for me to carry leather and weaving tools in my suitcase. Previous to this, I was using a plastic pencil case... this is an improvement.

tool bag

I learned enough to make a few changes on the second version:

small bag

It's a different gauge leather, and lined, plus the zipper has leather stops and there is a handle! So improvements already. I love this shape, and want to make a few more of these.

Next up, a small toiletries bag:

toiletries bag

I like the shape and size, I could use some practice with skiving (making leather thinner where needed) but all in all, this will do just fine for a leather bag that will be in a wet/dry/wet environment, carrying sometimes spilly wet things.

Last, I used an inkle band to decorate a small flat bag, which worked perfectly! and which I will do again. I had very little of this leather to make this bag, so it's small and flat, but it is already full of things I need to take on the next trip:

inkle bag

Turns out when I uploaded these photos, I'd forgotten to chronicle a small bag I made in May. It's for carrying cords for phone and iPad, my folding headphones, and my (now ancient) iPod. It' easy to grab from the overhead or under seat storage, and keeps everything neatly in one place. Previous to this, I'd been using a zip-lock plastic bag! This is way better!

cord bag

So really, it's plus five, but I am not changing the title, since it is evocative :). I worked on the four of them simultaneously: glue one, stitch another, make the zipper for turned out to be efficient, rather than one bag at a time, as long as I could remember which needed what next, and glue up the next day's stitching before I quit for the evening.

I am now up to #28 of 100, past 25% done! I have #29 going now, too, so 30 is next, for which I currently have no plans. Small bags though, are quick, easy to make, and eminently useful. There will be more to come :).

Monday, June 12, 2017


Having a stash, having supplies, having the tools and materials needed can be a curse and a blessing. Yes, the tools and materials are there when you need them. But they need to be stored until. I have lots and lots of cotton yarns, patterns and plans for garments and textiles, and tools that I am comfortable using, and that work well for me. Sometimes, I just pull out the stuff, turn on the lights and put it all to use.

Throwing the shuttle on miles of fabric is second nature to me: after 40 years of it, it feels like coming home. So, when I have no particular deadlines, I make fabric. Usually with a plan in mind of some kind, this time? I've been weaving to make the Folkwear Turkish Coat. I've had the pattern for a hundred years (OK well, since the last century), and it's make-it-up-or-get-rid-of-it-time.

Cotton fabrics+></a><br />
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I measured pattern pieces, and wove widths of cotton yardage that make sense in this garment's construction: I like to use selvedges if I can, so most of the very long pieces of this coat will have at least one selvedge edge, sturdy, no finishing required.  This is one length 10
The lining? Hand dyed indigo fabric from
Gasali Adeyemo:

Indigo fabric

The next step is to cut out all the sections, match them up with lining, and stitch the lining/outer layers together, before sewing the pieces together into the coat. Danger! Many! opportunities! to mess up! I hope I have enough fabric (that my calculations are correct) and that I have enough should some part need to be re-made... If not? I have more yarn.

This is a "muslin" of sorts: if it all works well, I may make another. and another? we shall see. I generally make at least 5 or 6 versions of any garment I work on: the first to see how it all goes, and the rest build on the that information. The subsequent garments become more individualized, more personal, and more deliberate.

Spinning is also joy for me, and yes, something for which I have stockpiled supplies and tools. My default, the spinning I go to when I have no specific project in mind, and just want to spin, is silk. Most projects require many, many yards, so I stockpile the yarn too, thinking, dreaming and planning while I spin.

I use a fine single with plenty of twist for everything: weaving (default) or knitting. The end use for the yarn is somewhat determined by the number of plies...but not always! So 2 ply or 3, I can knit or weave with the yarns I produce. The only thing I try to keep track of is the fiber type: Bombyx or tussah, Eri or Muga. These are alll skeins and warp chains of the tussah I am working on now:

Silk handspun

I see a kimono in there. I have no need for one, so I am spinning away in a leisurely manner. Stockpiling.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017


Red bag silk pile

New Bag! Hand spun silk pile, a piece I really like for its colors. This is a do-over, it used to be this:

#4 borderline knotted pile

When I first started combining leather and textiles in bags, I began where I was: a machine sewer, using clothing weight leather. This first iteration leather is thin, certainly won't wear well, and does not have the body I would like for a bag. I lined and interlined this, but it was still floppy, a pouch, not a bag. So, I took this apart, and in it's new life, the pocket gets a heavier gauge leather.

There are lots of tiny cramped spots to sew on a bag: little places a standard sewing machine cannot reach. I tried a commercial sewing machine for a while, but ...same problem. And...even the commercial machine slipped stitches, every now and then. Leather is a tough customer. I was not (still am not) interested investing in a real leather sewing machine: this is, after all, an exploration, not a business. I solved this dilemma with hand sewing. I am so enamored of hand sewing that I only sew leather by hand now.

This bag has lots of upgrades that I have learned over the (now) years! I have been learning this craft. Most are probably common sense, but some are experiential: how I use the bags, and how they hold up in use. Such as the bag from the last post.

This pocket has leather backing, like the previous one, but! it is a stiffer leather, and...there is a larger hem at the base of the textile to stay sewn in, and! the pile patch is not sewn flat to the leather: there is a bit of a bubble, so it has room, should the pocket stretch out in use. The back of the pocket is more supple leather, so the stretch should go that way, into the body of the bag, rather than out, toward the pocket.

Of course, I could be aware of not overloading the pocket! But that would not be a real life test. There will always be times when I stuff stuff in. And the perfect bag, mythical beast that it is, will not be something that you have to think about when loading or carrying. It will just perform.

In comments on the last post, Marlene asked if the pockets have a lining, and yes, they do: each textile is sewn to a fabric, which is then backed with leather, and stitched to the bag. Then, the pocket back is sewn to the bag (that's the outline you see around the pocket). I think the construction method is acceptable; we shall see. But thanks for the suggestion, and I am open to ideas if anyone thinks I need a nudge :).

Some of the many things I have learned:

zippers needs stops:
Red bag top

I assemble the zippers, so they are custom lengths. They have metal stops at the bottom and top (side/side, whatever), but if they butt up to the edge of the space, they can be ornery and difficult to work. So they now have leather stops at each end.

I made a small bag to test out inserting tabs, for easier zipper pulling:

#24 little Bag

This small bag, by the way, was so much fun and so gratifying to make, in a short span of time, that I fear it will be the first in a series of small bags. This one holds cords for charging phone and iPad, and iPod and some folding headphones. It goes inside the other bags. Matryoshka Bags! How much fun could I have????!

This last little bag counts as #25 in the quest for 100, so I am 1/4 to my goal! Little bags should help reach it faster. and believe me, I am getting so much better with each one. My stitching is more fluid, my stitches are more uniform, I know which tight spots I need to solve first, before the bags go together, and for all intents and purposes,what I need more is repetition, repetition and more repetition.

Things are looking up. I am getting better, not great yet, but I persevere. I was a good Girl Scout: Good, Better, Best, Never let it rest, 'til my good is better and my better best!