Friday, August 26, 2005

The Mess of Creating

Most projects start out with a nice clean picture in my mind of the finished piece. Sometimes (like Coin Purse, from the 8/19 post), it's a process of inventing as I go, but mostly it's a process of steps and problem solving to get the end result I want.

Once the idea has settled, and the work begins, whether it's spinning, dyeing, warping, or gathering materials, there's still plenty of opportunity to make choices, and course corrections, as creating never seems to move along with simple ease. Sometimes, when I get to this *thinking* part of the process, I have to put the work aside and take my time. I usually notice a certain sense of fear, or resistance, at the point of the project where I'm either forging new territory, or learning some technique I have not used before. It's very exciting to work through this part of any project: I'm anxious to see if it all works out.

In my current project, I am trying something new, and it has reached the *messy* stage, where I need to keep track of where I am, and pay attention as I make decisions. It's a bit more tiring than the usual flow of the process, but, as I said, more exciting, too. And, as the project nears completion and it all pulls together, it's very rewarding. That's why Coin Purse, and Evening Bag, from the two previous posts, still remain my favorites from their respective series: they were challenging to create (and they worked! some don't).

Here's the current mess:

silk pile4 2005

It reminds me of knitting argyle socks (not that I ever have) with all the bobbins to keep straight:


And then there is the mess this mess creates:

silk bits

(As usual, you can click on the photos for a bigger view).

A few posts ago, Valerie commented on the inherent nuttiness of spinning lots of yarn in order to cut it up into tiny bits, and yes, it does seem a bit nutty. But the yarn, once it's spun, is just yarn. Yes, it's pretty by itself, but it's also *useful* and the next step in the process is fun and has it's own beauty. *And*, rarely mentioned but really fabulous: I can use thrums from other projects:

silk thrums3

Thus I *save* bigger bits, to make them into littler bits. This creates a storage issue in the studio as I save bags of thrums:

bag of thrums

To add another layer: after knotting the thrums into pile, I end up with even smaller little bits, as in the photo above, which, believe it or not, I save:

silk bits2

and send to a friend who does silk fusion. These little bits become inclusions in her fabric, little sparkles, so really, nothing goes to waste!

So this means I have bags of thrums-too-good-to-throw-away, and then other bags of tiny clippings, all of which must be stored *somewhere*. The studio is bursting. I've been cleaning out. I really mean it this time, I'm serious. Really.

I started with magazines and books. I found a home for a whole pile of old SpinOffs, and next on the block are weaving and beading magazines. eBay is now my friend. After I get my first few auctions under my belt, I have scads more to list. I feel so virtuous clearing out, making room on the shelves for the things stored in boxes in front of the shelves. Yep, making room for bags of little silk bits, and slightly bigger silk bits (and wool bits. We haven't mentioned wool bits). Soon, I may even be able to (gasp!) see the floor.

Mess comes in many forms, even reaching into this blog. Despite having to register to make comments, spammers have gotten through, forcing me to go through steps to delete their sorry asses. So, I'm trying out the *word recognition* feature, to see if I can cut the creeps out of the loop. I'm sorry for this, hope it's not too unwieldy and onerous, except to the spammers.

Last: thanks for the birthday wishes! I'm glad you are enjoying the photos of bags, and yes, there are many puns left unbagged. There are more in the series, but there is an endless number I never got to, before moving on. I'll keep posting old stuff, whenever the new stuff is just too messy.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Oops. . .another beginning

How easily we forget. Before the Coin Purse, I had been doing some beadwoven bags. The first was Evening Bag:

evening bag2

which I thought was a very clever pun. But no one seemed to get it, they just thought it was a pretty evening bag. The back:

evening bag

a nebula (sadly, not as colorful as it once was: the metal finish has flaked off some of the beads). The handle is kumihimo, I think some kind of rayon yarn. This was 1993 or so, I know it was displayed at the CNCH conference in 1994.

So the next year, CNCH was to be held in Monterey. Continuing with the attempt at puns, I did Beach Bag:

beach bag2

and it's back:

beach bag

More people realized the tongue-in-cheekness of it. I did get a funny comment though, on how tacky the plastic bobber was (Tacky? Isn't the whole thing a bit tacky?). The handle is kumihimo here, too, a rayon ribbon. (You can click on any of these photos for a bigger view).

The next step was, of course, Sandwich Bag:

sandwich bag

It's a ham sandwich, which is clear when you see the inside because the lining is pink. It has peyote stitch tomatoes and lettuce. The comment on this one? *Why didn't you make it with whole wheat bread?*. People need more to do, I think.

This led to more silly bags, skipping back and forth between fabric bags, like coin purse, and beadwoven bags. One of my favorites:

doggy bag

Doggy Bag. Yep, dog licenses, little doggy fetishes and sticks, with a choke chain handle. Much fun was had. OK, yes, it's a small life around here.

Friday, August 19, 2005

In The Beginning

there was a left over piece of silk fabric too good to throw away. It's Henry's Attic Cascade silk, sett at 36 epi, woven with 5/2 cotton. The project was a scarf, this is the remnant:

coin purse

It became the first bag, and began a series which lasted for a full 5 years, and morphed into knotted pile.

This first bag took months to complete, not because it was so difficult, but because I was inventing solutions as I worked. I folded the fabric, and butted the selvedges together for a back seam. Then I twisted the fringe (the thrums) to close the bottom, adding beads as I twisted. Thus the bottom edge was weak (yep, no sewing), and required lining the reinforce it. Then I had to figure out a way to complete the top (raw) edge. I tried black leather first, not so good. Then I tried black velvet, and it was good.

coin purse detail2

The embellishments started with a band to trim that velvet edge. I took a class from Ed Franquemont at SOAR 1994 (Oregon) to learn Peruvian pickup (the "S") band, and the Nawi Awapi (the handle), which is normally used as an edge treatment, but is here freestanding. I used Gudebrod silk for these bands, and the Kumihimo, which trims either side of the "S" band. The Kumihimo was another of those "what next" moments in construction: it attaches the handle.

The coins and beads were added with twisted silk, but first I had to smash the coins. This was before the Penny Smasher, and yes, it involves railroad tracks, too much wine and fear of authority. But that is a story for another day.

This is a well traveled bag, it's been in shows all over the country, used in advertisements and has appeared in print. Backwards.

coin purse back

Yep. And I had so thought the very front to be the most, best, wondrous weaving:

coin purse very close up3

if you look closely (or click on it for a big version), you'll see the "S" colors switch: I went from dark "S" on light ground, to light "S" on dark ground, right at the center. Too subtle to notice? Yeah, well, that's what everyone else says too. It probably did not help that both warps for the band are painted, which further obscures the fabulous (and so modestly said) weaving. So the nifty and mind boggling, impressive special effects go unrecognized. Harumph. Guess they aren't so nifty after all.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005


I've been in Colorado, for a class at Shuttles, Spindles and Skeins. There are always interesting things to see and do when traveling, and most classes provide me with food for thought, not to mention outright inspiration, for some aspect of my work. Little do people know how much they inspire me, and the work that I do, and how much I value their comments, sometimes made in quite an offhand manner.

This class was on peyote stitch, bead weaving, cardweaving and wirework. It's a bit of a stretch to cram all these subjects into two days, and people are usually tired (and sometimes cranky!) at the close of each day. The classes are not project oriented, but rather process oriented: the samples each person takes home are mere whispers of the possibilities of each technique.

The techniques are all part of the repertoire of tricks that I have used to make some of the bags:

celtic carpet bag in sun

This is Celtic Carpet Bag, beadwoven with cardwoven bands, 1997.

I spent many years doing a lot of beadweaving. It must have satisfied some small OCD tendencies in my nature. Learning the technique, Maggie Casey had an insight into why I am so happy to be doing knotted pile: it's easier than beadweaving! It *is* some of the same process: graphed patterns, knot by knot vs. bead by bead, and building a fabric out of small components. Knotted pile *does* go faster, and I can dye any color yarn I want, vs. having to use *what beads I can find*. Mind you, hunting for beads is never an onerous task, and I am still lured, beyond reasonable need, into buying more beads. But I do like to use *my* colors, and dyeing helps me create what I want.

I like to say that anything with a hole in it is a bead, and Debbie took that to heart: she brought an angel cake on Sunday, saying it was just a Big Bead! I wish I'd gotten a photo, but by the time I thought of it, it was no longer just a hole, so to speak, as there was a large chunk missing. But yum! Few beads taste as good. Katrina brought brownies too: I blame them both for my dietary lapse. (Thanks!)

It is always nice to see old friends and meet new ones. It's part of the pleasure of traveling: to find the people whom I consider friends, even though we might see each other only once or twice a year. Cathy came by for a brief visit, and on her birthday, no less. She brought her crocheted shawls to show me, and while they look fabulous in the photos on her blog, they are even better in hand. Pictures can only tell us part of the story. The wools, alpaca and cashmere she has used are so soft, the shawls are like a warm cloud. Cathy brought me some of the merino she spins, so I might someday have something just as delicious. Might.

Which brings us to momentum. It takes me a while to recover whenever I travel. I come home with notes and ideas, but also ennui. I have the best of intentions: I wake up with plans. But I can't get back into the rhythm of working, sometimes for several days. I do laundry, clean up the kitchen,and (gasp!) dust. I *want* to get to the store and replenish the larder, but I must need some kind of decompression time. I might have even left something active on the loom, or on the needles, but it takes more time than it should for me to get back to it.

I think it is airplane-related. Whirling through the sky at altitudes and speeds we were never meant to travel, it takes a while for *me* to catch up with my body. So, I will have a few down days.

I need to take digital shots of the bags in the series I worked on for so many years. I have slides of most of them, but slides are going the way of the Dodo. At several conferences recently, slide projectors were hard to come by, but PowerPoint® was available. So, kicking and screaming, I will be dragged into this century.

The end blog result, though, is that I will post a few photos from the bag series, while I wait for the momentum to pick back up.

Thursday, August 11, 2005


Claudia asked if I had managed to meet all my deadlines, and Yes! I did. I was working on some entries for our County Fair, and I managed to finish 8 out of the 8 pieces I entered. But one piece didn't make the cut, the last fabric I worked on:

kimono fabric3 2005

I was not careful enough in the weaving, and the fabric ended up with lines, marks from the beating, or rather the uneven beating, on the loom. It is a disappointment, but not a total loss: I'll wear the eventual shirt, but I won't enter the fabric for display.

We (that is, the editorial we) want the fair display to entice people to weaving, interest them in what we do, not display the inevitable *not quite right* projects. So 7 entries went to the show.

The spinners, knitters, weavers and dyers in the guild did an excellent job this year. The overall presentation is varied and of very good quality, and there are some outstanding pieces.

Here are a few shots taken yesterday at the fair:

fair5 2005

fair6 2005
a triangle shawl

fair9 2005
another triangle shawl

fair1 2005
more shawls (and a silk band)

fair2 2005
some skeins of yarn (the gold one was the only junior category entry in spun yarns, done by a 10 year old boy)

fair7 2005
yardage, and another shawl

fair 2005
more shawls (the biggest woven category) and a bag

fair3 2005
a handspun sweater

fair4 2005
and a few more scarves

fair8 2005
a jacket: handwoven fabric, with surface design, and knitted sleeves in a variegated yarn. This is the back: the front is equally spectacular, but had the big distracting tags obscuring the handsome fabric.

project rug done3
The project rug is done and on display. The raffle will be Sunday afternoon, and I won't even be there. May it wing its way to a welcoming home.

We often get a few interested souls to join the guild after the fair. We spend time teaching inkle weaving, spinning on CD spindles, and knitting. We also demonstrate spinning, and this year weaving on a triangle loom, and there is a great display of silkworms, silk and reeling.

And, I leave you with this, for those of you who are carefully rearing your progeny, making sure that they eat the right things, get enough sleep, are read to, properly dressed, tended through all those social traumas at preschool and elementary school, and finally through those very expensive college years:

cliff boy (2)

*This* is what they do when you turn your back, when they are out on their own. This photo was sent shortly after an email description of surfing near *sharks*. That is, yes, sharks. Sigh. The subject line of the email when this picture arrived was *good safe fun*. *Where* did I go wrong?

Monday, August 08, 2005


Today being Monday, I start off in the usual way with laundry and dishes. I needed to do a little clean up in the studio too, after weeks of various projects, the detritus of which piles up on every surface.

So I headed down to the yurt, and started to A) clean off surfaces, and B) gather supplies and samples for a bead class next weekend.

Starting off well, I gathered tools and beads and started putting them in their containers, and the containers on shelves. Then I found a bead I'd set aside for a necklace. I still had out some beads that would go with it nicely. I have all the tools gathered up, and it's a simple process to put together a little necklace. Why not now? That's when playtime began.


This has a few Bali silver beads, some handmade borosilicate glass beads, and the blue bead which set the whole thing in motion. The rest of the necklace is a simple strand of my favorite-in-all-the-world blue greasy beads (the odd shaped small blue glass beads)with some reds thrown in for good measure. Once this was done, it seemed quite logical to make another:


Obviously, the polar opposite of the first, with its carnelian, horn and the wound glass dot bead in all oranges, reds and black. The remainder of the strand is mostly the white hearts: red, orange and rust. If you click on either photo, there's a bigger version online.

Both necklaces are short, 18" or so, and use mostly small beads. They'll be lightweight, and relatively inconspicuous, just something to add color. And they were quick!

Meanwhile, my husband has been pounding and banging on the house: he's adding on a new pantry, just outside the kitchen. He had to come in and take down all the plates, cups and tchotchkes that normally hang on the wall and reside in open shelves, and I got a chance to see how Zen decorating would look in my kitchen. I'm more of a horror vacuui decorator, and often have fantasies of clearing everything away.

Well, no. I guess not. It just looks bare. So now, in addition to all the cleaning I have yet to get *back* to, I will wash the dust off all of the tea pots, plates, cups, trays and cookie jars, and get everything put back in order.

Zen indeed, I should have known better.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Passion, Exploration and Dabbling

Progress has been made on the next fabric:

kimono fabric3 2005

This, too, is reeled silk, but of the more traditional, expected twist: a simple 2 ply. It is 2P from Treenway, sett at 48 in plain weave, with a 36/2 unmercerized cotton weft. All is going well. But honestly, I had to laugh after I unwrapped the painted warps: I've done this fabric before, in fact *at least* twice.

My thought process as I dyed the warps went something like this: hmm, blue solid and ikat warps. What goes with blue? Well, the old tried and true opposite on the color wheel: orange. But a nice soft orange/peach would do nicely. And what goes with peach? Well, both a soft magenta, and a lavender, which each have some pink in them. Then a darker blue/magenta for the other warp. Sounds fine, right? It should be:

kimono fabric 1994

Here is some cotton kimono fabric from 1994. A little more intense, but basically the same colors.

Then there is this:

kimono fabric 2002

Silk kimono fabric from 2002. I see a pattern here (pun notwithstanding). I ended up overdying the last fabric:

kimono fabric overdye

I should not be too surprised at this turn of events: I don't much think about fabric anymore. I am not in the groove of successive projects. I can certainly weave fabric when I want to: I have all the materials, tools and space allotted that I need to get fabric woven quickly and efficiently.

But it is not my passion. In the course of banging out several yards of fabric, I have been mulling over this concept of passion in my work (weaving lots leaves thinking time).

Right now, for the last six years, I have been passionate about cut pile. How do I know? It's what I think about when I'm daydreaming, planning, staring into space. Those quiet times when things come unbidden to mind. It's what I *want* to work on, and when I pass that project set up on the loom, what I linger over, planning and plotting until I can get back to it.

Previous to cut pile, I was in my *bead phase*. And for several years prior to that it *was* fabric, or at least dyeing, and I wove the fabric as the result.

I tend to go through a process in handwork: first is the exploration phase. In this phase, I take classes and buy magazines and books on the subject I'm exploring. For a while this information percolates, sometimes it never ignites. Then I call it one of my *dabbles*, something I can do, a technique I can use or add to my repertoire, but nothing I've exerted myself over, become passionate about, done anything original with. Dabbling is a necessary step on the path *to* passion, and it can be the shadowy remnants of spent passion, too.

But when the passion ignites, I begin to experiment, try my own versions of ideas, take risks, do samples, fail a lot. No matter if anyone has done it before me, it's all new then, I'm exploring on my own initiative. That's when it's fun. That's when I come up with my own style, my own take, my contribution, such as it is, to the craft.

You can tell passionate people: they are excited about sharing what they are doing. My friends Kathryn, Sarah and Deb are passionate about their work, and it shows in their product. Their work is original, and experimental, and very accomplished. We've been lucky enough to spend time in conversations about our work, and it is in these moments it is easy to hear passion come through. In one memorable conversation, Kathryn started talking about the effects of energized twist in knitting, and we were all given the opportunity to follow down a path of her mind as she detailed her experiments.

I've had teachers who were passionate about their work: Rita Buchanan comes to mind. When she gives a class, she has scads of samples and finished work, and her presentations is thoughtful, joyful and full of enthusiasm. Mary Spanos is another example of a teacher who is passionate and involved in her subject (and who became so passionate about her work that she quit her job and went back to get an MFA in textiles!).

A few years ago, I visited Elaine Benfatto, and left her place nearly breathless. In the short period of time, we basically rushed from bookshelf to basket to box as she showed me what she was working on or had done. She has taught a few times at SOAR, and the incredible display of samples and projects she brought was almost overwhelming. She could talk a mile a minute, pull out sample after sample, and still only touch the surface of her understanding.

Another woman who is definitely in the *passion* phase of her work is my friend Nancy Roberts. I showcased a bit of what she's doing in this post. But that only skims the surface of Nancy's current insanity, er, obsession, er, passion. Her original work was inspired by an article from 1989 in Threads magazine written by Rebekah Younger. But that was just the beginning. The passion set in, and Nancy began experimenting, creating and inventing on her own.

Nancy recently took a class from Rebekah, and, unlike your curious-but-not-passionate student, she brought all her samples with her (or lots! *all* is too many now) and shared with Rebekah how her work had inspired Nancy's work. Nancy showed Rebekah her handouts, and told her about the upcoming class Nancy is teaching at SOAR in Utah this Fall.

Nancy is not only having great fun, she is eager to share what she's learning and doing. This is another sign of the passionate soul: when the work is your own, it is easy to be excited about sharing it. It is not threatening to pass it on, and a passionate person does not feel the need to keep *trade secrets*. They are encouraging and enthusiastic when someone else likes what they are doing: not the product, as much as the process. It's the process of creating. That's what passionate people are trying to pass on.

I'm sure you all have met people passionate about their work, and know what I'm talking about. They are easy to recognize, and they leave you breathless. There is never enough time to get answers to all the questions their conversation brings up: you are left wanting more. I think it's that passionate *feeling* we are left wanting: we are in the presence of creation itself. I would hope that you have found it in your work too.

That passion is missing in my fabric now, it's redundant. I'm dabbling now. I've done it before (literally!). Not that it's *not good*, it's quite competent work. It's the feeling *behind* the work that I am talking about.

Here's a last look:

kimono fabric 2005

And today, I'll weave it off, and be done!

(Notes on crepe yarn from my last entry: yep, I think we've (together! thank you!) determined that is a highly spun yarn meant to create collapse or surface effects, in woven fabric. Whether it's singles or a ply composition, the end twist direction is magnified, creating live twist energy in the yarn.)