Saturday, March 29, 2008

Purples and Blues

Here are my latest two weavings, completed yesterday. The warp is handdyed, handspun bombyx silk, very fine two ply. The weft in the piece on the left is handdyed, handspun bombyx hankies, of a very similar colorway as the warp. The piece on the right uses the same yarn for weft as for warp. They are each 6.5" by 64" and weighs 1.38 ounces.

I'm intending to sell the one on the left and keep the one on the right for exhibition purposes. With all the silk I've been using over the last five or more years, this is actually the very first piece I've woven where the warp and weft are 100% handdyed, handspun bombyx silk. So it has to be a keeper.

In other creative news, here's a photo of the also just-finished scarf I knit for my sweetie, out of handspun wool that I made nearly ten years ago.

The natural gray wool, if I remember correctly, was a beautiful columbia x corriedale fleece that I bought from a local wool grower. The flecks of blues and aquas were small clumps of dyed white wool that I used in my very first dyeing experiments, and there's also some angelina in the yarn. This yarn might have been my very first experiment with natural colored wool, colored bits, and angelina, a forerunner to some of my more recent yarns.

I hope everybody's having a lovely weekend!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Two Squared

I finally made up and posted those novelty yarn spinning kits at my Etsy site. Here are two swatches knitted with sample yarns I made using the components available in the kits...

Finishing up two woven silk scarves now, hope to post them tomorrow. Over the weekend I'm planning to warp the loom for three woven shibori pieces.

Two things I need to practice while I'm weaving, are patience and sticktoitiveness. I'm always gung-ho at the beginning of a project, and soon after starting to weave it, I get bogged down and lazy and I find reasons to not weave. Since I have a deadline, of sorts, for myself, getting ready for a show in mid-May, and I have other things I want to weave as well, I'll need to put in some consistent weaving time over the next few weeks. I've been trying to get other projects out of the way this past two weeks, so I have more time to focus on art making. And I do see that opportunity coming up.

But for now, I'm up for a mocha and some knitting. Cheers!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

With These Hands

In the early 1970s, I had a little textile business -- my first of many -- in the Santa Cruz Mountains, called With These Hands. Largely I designed and sewed custom clothing, and I also sold commercial knitting yarns and supplies. "Little" was the operative word then, as the shop, located in a crafts center in an old Victorian near the San Lorenzo River, was only 9 x 13 feet square! OMG, I just remembered that I have this photo of me in that shop...

That oval piece hanging behind me was a favorite embroidered art piece of my own design and execution, which a few years later I gave to someone I shouldn't have, someone who didn't mean that much to me but I was hell bent at the time to give away parts of myself to the wrong people. God only knows where it is now, who could possibly possess it. If you're reading this and you know where it is, please let me know or send it back!!!

The business card here was created for me by the friend who taught me how to spin. She, too, was multi-talented.

Anyhow, way back then, before I taught myself how to knit, I was a crocheter, and I crocheted enough Granny Squares to make me never want to do it again.

But alas, earlier this week I started an ever-growing Granny Square out of small leftover lengths of handspun yarns that I hope will become big enough to be an afghan. All I can say is this: NEVER SAY NEVER!

I don't expect to give up knitting for crocheting anytime soon, because even with all the updatedness of crochet, the new patterns and designs, I still think of it as a clunky half-sister of knitting. But there is a rhythm to crochet that I enjoy, especially the part about just going for it without having to pay attention to a pattern, and I am loving my handspun leftovers becoming something useful. As with my weaving thrums, Waste not, want not!

Sunday, March 23, 2008


Many thanks to Chris O'Byrne for clueing me into how to edit html when I'm posting, so that my posts look they way I want them to. Now I'm a happy camper.

I've spent most of today weaving, trying to finish up two small-ish pieces on my loom so I can move onto other projects. I've got a Trunk Show coming up in mid-May in Eureka, at a lovely venue called Art of Wine and my goal is to complete two complex weave scarves after the two on the loom now, plus three woven shiboris. So I have my work cut out for me.

The photo here is from my walkabout last Friday, water in a fountain on the plaza at the foot of F Street in Eureka.

Hope you all had a great Easter. It's been a great day for me. Aloha!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Artist Date

With trepidation, I begin this post...

I took myself on an artist date this afternoon, out and about in Eureka, meeting with gallery and shop owners about venues for exhibitions of my work within the next year or two, and taking photographs of whatever interested me. And mostly what interests me is buildings and nature, storefronts, water, plants, stuff, textures. But rarely people!

This first shot is rolls of handmade paper in a shop called "All Under Heaven," which stocks Tibetan and Chinese goods, and other Far Eastern treasures. I love this store, lots of color and texture as well as lovely things to buy.

I was sitting in a cafe having a mocha when I looked up and saw these interesting lights and colors.

I used to go on Artist Dates frequently, when I was doing The Artist's Way some years ago, and lately I've been missing taking time out for myself each week to nurture my muse. And it was such a magnificent day today that it was a no-brainer.

We have a few stores in town here that I love going into, even if I'm not buying much for myself these days. I love books and cards and journals and pens and nifty tote bags and nice pottery and art supplies and interesting papers and lovely things for my home and garden tools and shells and small works of art. Just to name a few things. There are so many cool things out in the world and it's inspiring just to see them and get turned on to new possibilities.

Yes, today was a day of possibilities.

Grumble, Grumble, Grumble

Just have to get this off my is SO difficult to do posts here on Blogger and have them look, published, the way they look in preview mode. I am so frustrated with this. I just did a new post with two photos and some narrative, and no less than 15 times I reformatted it and published it, and it still didn't look a thing like it did in preview. So I deleted it and will try again later.

The line spacing always gets messed up, I think because there are photos in the post, the darn program won't accept spaces between paragraphs, and I'm upset with the whole thing. It makes posting a nightmare. I've gone onto the forums but too many people have too many other things going wrong with their blogs and nobody knows how to respond to my dilemma. I just want to do art, write posts and get on with it. I don't want to have to spend hours on one post because the system can't get it right.

Is there anybody out there at Blogger who can either explain why this happens, or FIX THE DAMN THING?!

Okay, thank you for listening. Now on with my day...

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Fiber Gems

I've been making and using these Fiber Gems, as I call them, for a few years now and I've just posted some on my Etsy site for sale. Fiber Gems are short pieces of my hand dyed, handspun yarns with novelty knitting yarns thrown in for color, glitz, sparkle, and pizazz -- and they make it possible for me to make yarns like this.

Originally I was using weaving thrums, warp yarns left after woven pieces are taken off the loom. But I ran out of those a while back. So now I just cut up handspun yarns (horrors!), add in novelty yarns, and card the gems into wool or other fibers along with angelina for sparkle and glitz.

As soon as my next shipment of fiber arrives from my supplier, I'll be posting yarn kits at Etsy. The kits will contain merino top, Fiber Gems, and angelina. Then folks can make their own brilliant novelty boucle yarns. It's tons of fun and everybody who spins should give it a try!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

New to Me

I'm kind of a Luddite sometimes, slow to adopt change or new technology. In the case of weaving, something I never tried before now is to tie new warp threads onto already-threaded warp, from the last weaving, and beam up a new warp without having to rethread all those heddles. I suspect most weavers have been doing this for a long time, as it's a keen way to put more warp onto the loom without the task of rethreading the loom. Of course, this only works if the old threading will suffice for the new weavings. In my case, this time it did.

Here we see the new grape silk warp being tied onto the old green/gold silk warp. I was amazed at how easily those tiny overhand knots slipped through the heddle eyes without a hitch. I think I'll definitely be trying this technique again in the future. It saved time in my not having to rethread the heddles, it also saved wear and tear on my back!

And here's that luscious grape warp -- hand dyed, handspun bombyx silk -- in chains at the foot of the loom.

This warp should weave up quickly. The first of two pieces is being woven with a weft of hand dyed, handspun bombyx hankies. As with my other recent pieces, I'm loving the interplay of two hand dyed silks together, plus the nubs inherent in the hanky yarn.

I'm hoping to get in some good loom time today, although I have other things that need to be done, first. Sometimes getting to weave at the end of the day is my reward for having a productive day, otherwise.

Enjoy your day!

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Single Life

I'm referring here, of course, to spinning singles. Singles are yarns that have only one ply -- a single ply -- rather than being two- or three- or more ply yarns. The knitting worsted yarns that most of us grew up with were four-ply. Mostly in my spinning career I've been spinning two-ply yarns. Plying two singles together releases some of the overtwist that is inherent in singles, and it also makes a stronger yarn.

Two weeks ago during the spinning class I gave, I spun several single ply samples of fibers that I really like to use. After spinning, the samples were soaked in hot water, squeezed out, and hung to dry with some weight on them. And I'm quite happy with the way they turned out, so I think I'm going to focus more on spinning singles and weaving with those. It also takes half as long to spin singles as two-ply yarns, obviously!

The samples above, from the left, are bamboo, merino/tencel, merino/tussah silk, and tencel.

Last week I took a bit of time off from weaving to focus on some art business matters. Now I'm warping the loom again for another silk scarf of hand dyed, handspun silk, and I'm using a luscious variegated grape bombyx very fine two-ply yarn I made about a year ago. I'll upload a photo as soon as I can.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Small Art, Big Heart

A few posts ago I uploaded a self portrait of myself, that was a miniature piece of art created on a mini "canvas," a 2x2 inch cardboard slide mount. When I did that project, early last year, I also made several other diminutive art pieces. Here are a few...

These little pieces were so much fun to make. They're covered with handmade papers or magazine photographs, glitter glue, globs of misshapen beads, shells, beads and adornments. If I had the time, I could easily be at my workbench making these things all day. I love playing with all these elements, putting them together in unusual ways.

And years ago when I was beading primarily, I made long, single earrings I called Color Falls. All the ones that remained, I have strung on a thin strip of leather, in rainbow color order, and I hang them by the south facing window to catch the light. Check these out...

I continue to delight in finding treasures around the house that I can show you all. I'm looking at the gestalt of my artwork and seeing each piece, each diverse manifestation of my creative energy, as a little arrow of my love going out into the world. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Real Art

I've always had a tendency to consider "real artists" as those people lucky enough to spend all their time conceiving and making art...the folks who appear to have life support for all the other tasks of living so they can focus on manifesting their artistic vision.

I read Fiberarts Magazine regularly and I'm so inspired by fiber and textile artists who seem to have a direction with their art. Because oftentimes I don't feel as though I have a direction. Part of it, I guess, is that the real making of art in my life feels sandwiched in between marketing and promoting, paperwork, doing other things as necessary to earn a living, going to the post office, etc. etc. So I frequently feel like I'm skimming the surface rather than sinking in deep to whatever catches my imagination, and then pushing the edges with it.

Perhaps this is a common lament among artists, I don't know. Perhaps if one goes to school to study art making and has unlimited time to devote to their art, this isn't an issue. Sometimes I think it has to do with commitment. Maybe it is a problem related to being talented at many things, so that it is inherently difficult to choose one area to push forward with, to some level of completion. But the older I get, the more I see it as a reality of modern living that relatively few of us have the luxury of doing nothing but our art. I just don't know.

What I DO know is that periodically I feel frustrated, like I'm not doing enough with my art, like I'm focusing more on output than on the processes of exploration and discovery, as though the latter is inherently more important than the former. My sense of what constitutes real art and real artists, I'm seeing, is related to those very processes that I feel I spend too little time at. And this is what frustrates me.

Digitized Peacock Eye

I'm thinking in this very moment that I'm likely too hard on myself and this post probably belongs on my personal blog! Blah, blah, blah!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Bali, Indonesia

I noticed on my blog visitor map that I've got readers in the Asia Pacific region, so I've been remembering that back in 1984 I was in Bali. Twice, actually. The experience turned into one of my many creative interludes -- those adventures in emergent creativity that interspersed the more nose-to-the-grindstone periods of my life.

I went to Bali with a girlfriend, to get away from it all for a while, and I came back an importer of beautiful Indonesian goods. I went back the second time that year to have some clothing that I'd designed, manufactured there.

I had these outfits, and jumpsuits (oh, so 1980s), sewn and handpainted in Bali, and shipped them back. I had reps on the West Coast for a while but things didn't turn around fast enough (read: couldn't sell enough product in a short period of time) so, unfortunately, I never went back. This photo is of a display in a shop window in Santa Cruz.

The trips to Bali were fraught with their own kind of intrigue, politics between small manufacturers, me, being the American in the mix, not sure at all of what was really going on behind the scenes. But was it ever a learning experience, in so many ways.

Of course, Bali is a fantastically beautiful place and I met really wonderful people there. As I recall, there's no word for "artist" in the local language, because everyone IS an artist. And I was among them for a brief time.

Selamat jalan!

New Spinners

I wanted to show you all the beautiful silk novelty yarns that students completed in my class over the past weekend.

These yarns were the end result of two days of spinning and sharing our love of fiber. The yarn is made of tussah silk noil carded with angelina and novelty weaving thrums, then plied with a single strand of bombyx silk.

The participants also gained expertise spinning tencel, bamboo, cotton, tussah silk, merino/tencel, merino/tussah, yak and alpaca tops.

I'll be teaching a shortened version of this class (we'll only be making the silk novelty yarn) at Black Sheep Gathering in Eugene, Oregon in late June, and possibly at the Oregon Flock & Fiber Festival in Canby, Oregon in September.

On other matters, I'm looking for information on how to go about creating color-corrected scans of dyed fabric samples, for a dyeing book I am self publishing. Does anyone reading this have info they can share about where I can get this done cost effectively? My local printer wants an arm and a leg and the self publishing outfit I want to use doesn't do pre-press work. Any help will be greatly appreciated.

The weather has warmed up in my neck of the woods, lovely to not have the heat on all day in the house, but alas, there's more rain in the forecast. A spring rain, though!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

A Step Closer

Tonight we take one step closer to spring, with the setting forward of our clocks to Daylight Savings Time. It seems too early in the year yet for this annual event. I'm not quite ready to paint my toenails, which I typically begin each year with the turning of the clocks, because in the past this event heralded warmer weather and sockless feet. But I'm still wearing thick-ish socks now, so perhaps Easter Sunday will be when I paint my toenails for the first time this year.

But the colors of this piece are so springlike, so Easter, which I don't personally celebrate per se, but anyway they are reminiscent of Easter eggs. And I'm feeling ready for spring.

In this weaving, which is a scarf I wear in springtime, all of the warp yarns are novelty knitting or weaving yarns, and the weft is a hand dyed, handspun cotton/silk blend. The combination of the heavier novelty yarns and the lightweight cotton/silk gives this piece heft and drape.

Enjoy the colors and may tomorrow, with its extra hour of daylight, be a bright day for all.

Friday, March 7, 2008

My Latest Weavings Posted at Etsy

I just posted my most recently-completed woven scarves at Etsy, so you're all invited to check them out there. All three of them are made entirely of hand dyed, handspun silk, or silk and tencel, or silk and cashmere, and each is suitable to be worn by either men or women. They're elegant and luxurious. Here's a teaser...the details of each are on Etsy.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Purse Strings & Fringes

As I fringed two new woven scarves earlier today, I was thinking about beaded embellishments that I've added to some knit and woven items in the past. Occasionally I will do this to jazz up a piece. Here are a few samples...

These first two pieces are knit purses I did a few years ago, as part of a guild project to make purses or bags for a display at the annual CNCH conference (Conference of Northern California Handweavers). The orange bag is silk, the blue is wool, and both are handspun by me, of course.

The beaded fringe below is on a shawl I made out of silk hankies -- the piece is hand dyed, handspun, handwoven in a twill block pattern, and hand beaded. I've just entered this piece in the Dallas Handweavers Guild show opening in April, so if you're in the Dallas area, stop by and see it (the whole shawl, not just the fringe!).

This last piece is a beautiful shawl I knit from a beloved moorit romney fleece about 10 years ago. It was a pattern that I'd had since the early 1970s that I once knit for my grandmother out of commercial knitting worsted -- and I'd always wanted to use that pattern again on a shawl for myself. Rather than putting on traditional hanging fringe, which I don't always care for anyway on knitted items, I embedded beads along the garter stitch borders.

I really enjoy looking for unusual ways to use up some of the beautiful beads I've collected over the years since I made beaded jewelry. I wish I had more time to embellish even more things with beads. They sure look better that way than they do in their little plastic baggies!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Tequila Sunrise, Part Deux

Finally, this dye sampling project is complete! Several dyeing sessions and lots of spinning between other projects, but here it is.

The idea was to dye four mixed-fiber tops with both acid and natural dyes, to see the results -- which blend would take acid dyes better (acid for the protein fiber in each top) and which would take natural dyes better (for the cellulose fiber in each top). I used both dye classes at a strength of DOS 1 (depth of shade), which is generally a medium-small amount of dye.

In all samples, ACID dye results are on the left, NATURAL DYES/PROTEIN MORDANT are in the middle, and NATURAL DYES/CELLULOSE MORDANT are on the right.

This first batch above is Merino/Tencel 50/50. I wouldn't have thought the sample with natural dyes/cellulose mordant would take so much dye, with 50% merino. Personally, I like all these samples and would consider using any of the dye/mordant combos again depending on what outcome I was going for.

This second batch above is Merino/Bamboo 60/40. Again, there was far more dye takeup than I'd expected for natural dyes/cellulose mordant, with 60% merino in the blend. As with the merino/tencel, I like all the samples and would consider any of the dye/mordant combos for future dyeing projects.

This next batch above is Silk/Cotton 55/45. I really loved the two samples with natural dyes and would easily try either of them again. I probably wouldn't use acid dyes again on this blend because of the small amount of dye takeup, even though the blend is 55% silk and normally silk takes acid dyes beautifully. The cotton overshadowed in this case.

This last batch is Silk/Bamboo 60/40. As with the silk/cotton blend, the acid dyes hardly took at all so I wouldn't use them again with this blend. However, both the natural dye samples turned out well.

Overall I was interested in the more orange tones achieved with natural dyes using alum sulfate for protein fibers, compared with using alum acetate for cellulose fibers.

So now it's on to something else -- in fact, I am spinning up some 2-ply tussah silk, white, that I plan to use later on for a painted warp project. And I am teaching a Luxury Fiber Spinning class this weekend and my personal goal is to spin all those different fibers as singles. I'll post results next week or later.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Self Portraits

Over the years I've done a few self portraits in different media. The other day I noticed, for the first time in a couple months, the most recent one, which is what got me thinking it would be neat to see all of them in one place -- all three of them.

This one here is from 1974. I made it in the very first weaving class I ever took. It's a tapestry done on a small frame loom. The hair is one of my first handspun yarns. Interestingly, my hair, now, kinda looks like this -- brown with some gray. I was living in Ben Lomond, in the Santa Cruz mountains, at the time.

The drawing here was done in 1978 when I was living on Maui. I was taking a drawing class at an estate-turned-art center there called Kalua Nui. I rarely draw anymore but there is a quality that I like about my drawings. It would be an excellent thing for me to do as a meditation, because it requires so much focus on the present moment and looking at precisely what's in front of my eye.

This last piece was done last year, 2007, as part of a project for an art group I sometimes attend, called the ABC Group, or Altered Book and Collage Group. The "canvas" is a 2x2 inch slide mount, covered with handmade paper and glitter glue. The photo of me is from 1977, on Maui, photocopied recently. The copper wire and beads are a perfect representation of my hair.
I'm curious whether I have any other representations of myself so I'm going to look around. I have a feeling I may find a number of things that I feel speak of different parts of myself although they may not look like portraits, per se. At any rate, I do enjoy using unusual media to show my many faces to the world.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Olive Green

Another late evening and I'm tinkering around with my colors. I always go to green. It's the most pleasing to my eye and my psyche.

I am rebuilding a very old Ashford Traditional spinning wheel that a friend bestowed upon me. I haven't done a project like this in a while and I am fondly remembering a beautiful old painted oak secretary that I refinished a number of years ago. Watching the paint literally melt off to reveal gorgeous quarter-sawn oak beneath was a wondrous affair. Too bad I did it as a gift for a friend and it's not in my possession. But I took great joy in bringing back to life a truly beautiful piece of furniture.

Also I have been working today on marketing my art, finally getting around to sending out announcement postcards to previous buyers and others inviting them to check out my three websites.

This is a piece that I recently "bought" for myself from my handmade collection. I do that every so often, go into my studio and "shop" when I need something new in my wardrobe. It is a lovely, hefty piece that is keeping me warm this winter/spring, made of cotton and tencel.

I've had a love affair with the color olive green for about as long as I can remember. I think it started when I was in junior high school, and olive green and baby blue were a hot combo. I once dressed for Hallowe'en as an olive, mostly in olive green with a pimento red scarf around my neck. Then there were the long toothpicks laden with a stack of olives marinating every evening in my father's martinis. Now it's olive green and black for me and I wear those colors together much of the time.

This is quite cool, reminiscing about a color. I think I'll do it occasionally as an exercise in creative reimagination.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

New Show

Our Artists in Flight show opened last night at The Ink People in Eureka to some amount of local fanfare. I think we all enjoyed ourselves as well as meeting with all those folks and potential patrons interested in learning more about our art. I spent the evening spinning silk, talking about my craft, and generally schmoozing with folks many of whom I hadn't seen in a while.

This piece here is something I conceived a couple of years ago, as a hanging to go on my living room wall. Once I completed it, though, that wasn't the right place for it, so I just had the individual pieces tucked away in various places around the house. When I started putting together the collection for this show, the idea came back together for me, and I have to say I am really happy with it now.

The piece is composed of three panels plus a thin strip of warp-painted silk in patterns inspired by animal skin prints. The weft in all pieces is handspun bombyx silk.

Here are Sue O'Kieffe, Joan Gold, and myself on the right, enjoying the festivities. We've fashioned ourselves into our own cohort and have begun meeting on a monthly basis to support each other in our efforts to become better and more widely-recognized artists.

May we all prosper with our art and our lives!