In Which We Buy A House

I mentioned this summer was busy, right? Well, literally days before I zoomed off into the mountains for my magical fortnight of weaving, we bought a house!

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Its a glorious beautiful amazing house, and one of the most fun things about this summer is being able to spend so much time making it even more beautiful and personal. I’ve, well, gone a little bit crazy with paint colors and wallpaper options. Spoonflower has been selling wallpaper for close to 4 years now, but I’ve never been in a house I could really use it on until now.

I started with the master bathroom. It has a glorious “garden tub” (words I’d never heard together before until I started looking at houses) and I thought the wall in that nook would be perfect for a feature wall. I’d already picked out the paint color as a pale greyish lavender, and I wanted something just a little bit exciting to really draw the eye.  I tried out a couple of samples first, I thought I was going to go with something botanical and I really loved some of these paper cut designs:

But in the end I fell madly in love with this totally crazy rainbow magical water color bubble extravaganza. There was something inside me that loved the thought that no matter what color I turned my bubble bath, it’d still match the walls, hahaha.

After the success of that room, I decided the next wall I wanted to wallpaper was the guest bathroom. Amusingly, this room happened in reverse order. I pretty quickly decided on this sort of under water sea urchin design. I just love the textures and the colors in it. Choosing a wall color to go with it was quite difficult though.

I tried out samples of six different shades before eventually deciding to throw up my hands and start mixing and matching with some leftover cans from other rooms in the house. The fact that it actually worked and I got a lovely shade of teal quite surprises me. The shower curtain is also spoonflower fabric (pirate ships and red linen texture), though I actually made it a couple of years ago. The fact that it matches both the wallpaper and wall color perfect is actually pure coincidence.

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For a brief period I almost ended up choosing this design as the guest bathroom wallpaper, just to get a giggle out of any visitors who might see it. But the beauty of the sea print was just too good to give up. Besides, it sort of matches the yellow and would make an excellent shower curtain, for when I’m feeling more giggly butts instead of pirates ;-).

Butt Guys & Wildlife by pendletonward at Spoonflower

The third place I ended up wallpapering was my new weaving/sewing studio. I’ll save that for another post though, because trust me, you’ll want to see all the photos. It is, for obvious reasons, my favorite room in the house.

The Penland Experience

Its been quiet on the blog because life has been pretty full this summer. One of the most exciting things that happened is that I got the opportunity to FINALLY attend a workshop at Penland.

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If you’ve never heard of it, The Penland School of Crafts is a is a national center for craft education located in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains. It has a loooooong history, and was founded in the 1920s as a way to teach local women skills which would provide a source of income that they could earn from their home. It may have started with pottery and weaving, but the school now has the resources to focus in all areas of craft, from metal working (large forges and small jewelry), to blowing glass, all aspects of fiber arts, clay, wood working, drawing and painting, book making, letter press, photography, and goodness knows what else.

What I found most special about Penland was that it wasn’t just a workshop or class, it was a full experience. The campus is tucked away in the mountains. The school directly owns some insane acreage of land, but due to the nature of artists, the influence has expanded to the entire surrounding community. The school itself offers everything from short summer workshops (1-2 weeks) for hobbyists and people who just want to learn a new skill, to intensive programs for long term students determined to be career artists, to funded residencies for artists who are solidly into a career and need resources and a community, to permanent members of the community who are renowned in their field. You never know who you’re sitting down next to in the dining hall.

The campus is beautiful of course. It is covered in hiking trails, and random works of art. Every session they open up the resident studios for walk throughs so you can see and be inspired by others. Also, most workshops have an open-door policy and you can wander through other people’s classes and ask them questions about what they’re making.

At the end of each session Penland hosts a student work auction, and the proceeds to to support next year’s work study students. (Yes, Penland is expensive. Worth it, but expensive. But they also have a super neat scholarship and work study program to help offset that cost, so don’t let the money stop you. There are options!) Anyone can donate items to the auction, and anyone can bid on and buy items. It is a really fun way to end the experience, and see what works people are most proud of, and if you feel so inclined, pick up some works of art to take home yourself! I bid on an got a lovely wood-fired bowl for myself, and this super cool box of mini-books, one by each of the students in the book making class.

 

I also donated a scarf which I made during my own class. You’ll recognize my usual reflective strips ;-). I had fun showing off that material and its effects to my class mates.

As a class, we collaborated with the letter press students and together donated a set of greeting cards, featuring a woven sample by each of us.

Our teacher, Amy Putansu, was truly fantastic. She also scheduled a field trip for us to drive over to Asheville and check out some gallery shows that might be particularly interesting to us. One was about the concept of weaving taken outside of normal materials. The other was a show devoted to the history of art and craft local to the area, and featured some of our teacher’s own work. I found it really inspiring to see kinds of art that I identify with more.

But wait, I haven’t told you what my class was about or showed you any other photos of what I was doing! It was a really busy and intense two and a half weeks, and there’s just too much for one blog post to tell. Keep an eye out for part 2 of my Penland story, coming soon!

Zarzamora Silk Scarf

It was 97 deg F outside today as I took the photos of this scarf. I finished weaving it last week. It felt silly to make a scarf in the middle of a southern summer, but I wanted something simple and fun to work on. It is a 2/2 twill with the yarn at 24epi.

I have never worked with Malabrigo yarn before, but after this I definitely am again. This is their Mora line, spun of 100% mulberry silk. Expensive, yes, but absolutely worth it. The color is so vivid and beautiful and somehow dynamic. Silvers and greens and blues and browns wend their way through the wisteria like purple. Yes, I’m feeling color sentimental-y, but the dye name is “Zarazamora” which apparently means “blackberry” in Spanish and I love it.

The softness and the drape of the scarf is hard to capture in these photos, but it was waaaay too hot to drag out the body form. I’m sure I’ll find a way to take more later. Just know that it is a scarf you want to touch.

 

I also had a lot of fun documenting some of the steps of weaving this scarf on instagram. While the video snippet quality isn’t the best, its something I enjoyed and am going to try to keep doing. Follow it with #watchmeweave if you want! 

Do you prefer to hold warp in your hands, or use lease sticks when threading the reed? #weaving #watchmeweave

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A re-introduction to Claire McCardell

I recently came across this article on a wonderful fashion designer of the 1950s, Claire McCardell. I was already enjoying the story of her life when I suddenly recognized one of her dresses. (You should definitely go check out this Seamwork Article, its a work of art in its own: https://www.seamwork.com/issues/2017/06/deconstructing-claire-mccardell )

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I came across this photo a few years ago and fell in love with the dress. I could find out the photographer easily enough, and the model, and even the artist’s studio she’s posing in. But I never managed to find out who designed the dress.

I made my own version, and wrote about it here a few months ago, you can see more photos of it here: https://dressinsouciantly.com/2016/07/10/monets-water-lilies/

But now I am so glad to know more of the fascinating history of the woman who designed it. She seems like she was a truly amazing woman. Thank you Claire McCardell.

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The Handmade Project – Video Poll

Have you hear about The Handmade Project yet? No? Oh, well, its only a crafting competition reality TV show hosted by Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman….

You can read about it here, and here. And even apply for it here. I’ll wait.

 

Excited yet? Okay, so yes, of course I’m going to apply. The one snag I ran into while filling out the application was the introduction video. Gah, of course. For all the other things I like learning and making, video editing has just never clicked with me. Thank goodness I have some really awesome friends.

Now I have three videos, and I can’t decide which one I should submit. I need your help. Please watch these three videos in any random order, and then vote on this poll:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1p0r6m6Rvy3FgEOXBai8DcoZfBvb7PXkI6AI8S_l-Ynk

 

Thank Youuuuu!

Blue Flowered Birthday Dress

I think I’ve mentioned how every year I like to sew myself a birthday dress. This year was no exception.

I used Sprout Patterns once more, and this time chose a dress I’ve had my eye on since the very beginning. This pattern is the Anna Dress by By Hand London. It is super simple to put together, but still feels elegant without being intimidating.

I think my favorite thing about this dress is that I made mistakes all over the place, but because its got simple lines and a relaxed flow you can’t even tell. Most obvious, I wasn’t paying attention and bought the wrong size zipper. Which I didn’t even notice until midnight the day before I wanted to wear it, no craft stores open now! (As a sideline, I’ve always wanted to start a business that makes craft supply vending machines for moments like this.)

What do you do when you only have 9″ of zipper to close up 22″ of back seam? You modify the dress to have an open key hole back! I simply inserted the zipper in the 9 inches of the narrowest part of the waist, cut out a curve in the rest of the back seam, and put a button at the top! Its even a self-fabric covered button, because I had a few left over from a previous project.

Its not a perfectly fitted alteration, but it works for the casual look I wanted anyways. And besides, thats not even the worst of it. Halfway through I mixed up the skirt panel pieces, and discovered way too late that I had attached them in the wrong order, with the front three halfway around the back. Can you tell? Not a bit! I’m pretty sure the front seams were supposed to line up with the pleat lines in the bodice, but oh wait, I kind of screwed those up too.

And yet, with all that, I love this dress. Its obviously hugely forgiving of mistakes, you can put it together half asleep and still look incredible.

Summer-Winter scarf as Spring approaches

This scarf came from another commissions conversation, but has been something I’ve wanted to try ever since my success with the summer winter block pattern scarves.

Summer-winter drafts are weavings where either the warp yarn or the weft yarn becomes dominant, and so one color can take over. In the block drafts I’ve done before, this isn’t super obvious because the blocks alternate colors anyways. But I really wanted to see what a scarf would look like in a summer-winter pattern without blocks, where one side of the scarf would be a noticeably different color than the other.

This scarf was warped with burgundy tencel, and I used cobalt tencel for the weft. I absolutely love the color effect where one side is burgundy with hints of blue, and the other is blue with hints of burgundy.

The effect of the two colors turned out so well I’m going to have to try this again. And of course I included some of the reflective threads as well.

 

 

Christmas in the 80’s

Our work party this year was themed “The 80’s.” And snarky costumer that I am, I said to myself “I don’t really want to dress like the 80’s. I was alive for them, they weren’t all THAT long ago. I’d rather do something crazy like…. the EIGHTEEN EIGHTIES.” Luckily, I have a boyfriend who was totally willing to go along with it.

I was so pleased with myself that one of those photos became our New Years card. The party was truly wonderful, and the team who put it together did a great job. They even had little instant polaroid cameras everyone could play with. These now have proud places on my desk.

I promise you some excellent real quality photos of the actual costumes whenever I get a chance. But to tide you over, here’s some sloppy shots of my hair, which I was actually pretty proud of doing all on my own.

Weaving with silk

Silk is an intimidating fiber no matter what you’re doing with it. It took me awhile to sew my first garment out of silk, and weaving was no different. Especially when the yarn I got my hands on was so beautiful. This is a silk-wool blend yarn that is hand dyed in a set of matched colors.

Part of my timidity with weaving came from the fact that I felt the yarn was too delicate to use as warp threads. It is loosely spun and with a slight “fuzz” that I knew would catch and fray on my wire heddles. So I needed the perfect yarn to pair with these beautiful colors.

Eventually I found this incredible dark-purple colored 100% silk, and I knew it would be the yarn to work. It is smooth and strong, and even though it is super-fine I knew it would hold up with the wire heddles.

I chose a simple twill tie-up for this scarf, as I really wanted the yarn to be the star of the show, and not my fancy treddling. I had a lot of fun blending each color of yarn into the next, creating what I hoped would turn into a smooth gradient of color bleed. It worked better for some colors than others, but still turned out lovely.

Fulling this scarf was about as scary as anything else. I’ve done two other wool projects, but never a silk-wool blend. I wasn’t sure how the fibers would really react. In the end, I floated it on a couple of inches of luke warm water in the bottom of the bathtub. I’m usually pretty rough on the rayon and tencel scarves I make, I want them to be able to take a lot, and I know the yarn can take it without warping too much. I twist and wring them out to really get them saturated and move the thread about. I was a lot more gentle with this scarf, I pressed it flat to the bottom of the tub, and shifted it a bit, but I didn’t twist or wring it as I didn’t want anything to shrink unevenly. I stuck it in the dryer on a cool air-fluff for a few minutes, to beat some softness into the yarns. But I removed it quickly and let it air-dry for the remaining time. Over-shrinking this scarf was my biggest fear, but it all turned out well in the end.

 

When making this scarf, I decided to measure the warp for about twice what I needed. I figured if I was going to play with silk, I might as well learn something while I was at it. So I did another scarf that was 100% silk in both warp and weft. The warp is the same as the one above, and the weft is another silk yarn that I purchased while I was hunting for the mate to the yarn above. This weft was a little bit slubby and un-even in how it was spun, which is why I ended up moving away from it for the warp to go with the gradient wool blend. But it was perfect as another weft. In color it was a slightly darker raisin color that really created a nice effect with the warp. I like describing this scarf as “dark chocolate raspberry.” It is almost brown in some light, but berry colored in others. The 100% silk in warp and weft is smooth and crisp and is probably the most luxurious scarf I’ve made yet.

Weaving with silk was actually a breeze. Its a super strong fiber, and less prone to tangling. It was easy to keep the warp strong and smooth and straight. The wool-silk blend stretched a little bit, which made it harder to keep the selvages tight and straight. But the 100% silk worked perfectly as the warp to compliment them.

I’m very proud of these two scarves. They’re the first things in while that I really feel like I took a risk on, or learned something new. Don’t get me wrong, its fun cranking out a rainbow plethora of rayon scarves in arbitrary combinations and ideas. But it also feels good to really try something new, and be worried that you’re doing it wrong, and in the end find out that it’s all okay and it turned out great!