Spring Rain Woven Window Panel

I was super excited to finish this piece, as it is one of my first projects that is completely non-functional. Don’t get me wrong, I love art that serves another purpose, be it wearable, or usable in some other way. But there is also something satisfying in making a piece that has utterly no function what so ever. I found it freeing to not worry about how this will fit, or wash, or be used. It won’t be used at all, except to hang on a wall and look pretty, and that’s okay!

 

This piece was woven with 12/2 cotton, a very fine thread-like yarn. I sett it fairly loose, because I really wanted to exaggerate the diaphanous transparent areas created by the ondulé weaving. Ondulé is a style of weaving that intentionally encourages the warp threads to bunch and spread in a specific pattern, creating areas of densely woven threads, and areas of spread out and sparse threads. This also causes the warp threads to bend and curve, or “undulate” (hence then name ondulé, which is translates from “wavy” in french). I chose to exaggerate these curved lines by painting short segments of the warp threads in charcoal and grey, and also by inserting supplemental warp threads of a heavier black yarn. These threads were trimmed long and left loose on the “front” of the piece, because I liked their natural and somewhat random curl. They squiggle and drape themselves down the length of the fabric, interacting in ways you don’t expect, catching the eye.

On the other hand, the back of the piece is also really lovely. When the black threads aren’t seen dangling, the piece has a much cleaner appearance. Instead of getting caught up in individual curls, your eye falls naturally every downward.

 

I’m biased, but I love both sides of this piece. My favorite way to display it is actually to hang it where both sides can be seen, especially if you can also catch light through it. So right now it’s hanging in the window nook in my studio. This is where I was imagining it as I wove it. The thinly woven “bubble” areas shape the light, like droplets of water on a window pane. The painted threads and black yarn create trails, like a droplet of rain that has traveled down glass.

 

As I was planning this piece out, I had countless ideas for other “window” designs. I hope to continue the series with other things I see as I look not only through my window, but at it.

New Notebook Box

This post is mostly just eye-candy for a gorgeous box I acquired recently. I’m always a fan of craft-trades, and I was able to commission this hand carved box in exchange for a 100% silk reflective scarf. The artist was Katie Allen, a good friend I always turn to when I’m looking for beautiful woodworking.

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The box turned out even more beautiful than I could imagine. I love the detailing of the stripes on the sliding lid, and the corners. The grain of the wood is beautiful. The artist even wood-burned my art portfolio logo on the top.

I’ve taken to keeping notes on my weaving projects in tiny memo books. I like that they’re small enough to not be intimidating, plus they fit easily into pockets or bags or whatever. And graph paper is super useful when brainstorming drafts. Of course, since they’re small, they fill up fast and they were starting to pile up.

This box is designed to fit the notebooks perfectly, so I can easily organize my filled up ones and my empty next to use books. I love it. Keeping my notes in this gorgeous box helps inspire me.

Girls – Please don’t join the Boy Scouts of America

I was surprised and confused by the Boy Scouts of America’s recent announcement that they were now not only allowing transgender kids into their programs, but also actively encouraging girls to join up. Surprised because, well, I’m super biased and still look at the BSA as a conservative religious group that does icky things I usually disagree with. And confused because, well, why? I mean, what’s wrong with the Girl Scouts?

As time went on, I continued to be confused and to question myself. My gut reaction to the announcement was a negative one, it left a bad taste in my mouth. And yet, on the face of it, the BSA seemed to be doing something open and inclusive that I should feel good about. So why did I feel so bad? Was it just my internal bias? Was I being overly judgmental? Was I putting myself on the side against inclusivity?

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Me with good friends at Girl Scout camp. We called ourselves the Terrible Trio or something equally clever.

It took a fair amount of thought to realize the obvious: No. It was not just my bias. It is not just that the BSA has an ugly history regarding gender and inclusivity. It is okay to feel bad about this idea, because it is a bad idea. It is not inclusive. With this new policy, the BSA are directly excluding the Girl Scouts of the USA. They are excluding all of the women who have worked to make a safe space for young girls. They are excluding the mission that GSUSA fights for. They are excluding the learning that takes place because of it, and the progress that organization has fought for.

This issue is not about the gender of your kid, or which summer camp you send them to, or if its better to have mixed scouts or not. This issue is about the differences in each organization, and how they are perceived by the general public. This issue is about the sexism inherent to our society. Inviting girls to join the BSA is not a step forward in solving the problems of sexism.

I’ve already said that I am openly biased. I think that the GSUSA is a better organization than the BSA. They are a secular organization, not a religious one. They have always been more open and inclusive in their policies, but the rest of the world has not always responded positively.

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Me at space camp, an opportunity I got through the Girl Scouts.

As early as 2012, the GSUSA has accepted transgender kids. It made news again in 2015, and a spokesperson pointed out that it had never been specifically against policy, but that they wanted to make their position on inclusivity more official. At that time, organizations around the country responded negatively. The American Family Association created a petition gathering over 38,000 signatures of those against the announcement. Some groups responded with quotes like “don’t put our young girls at risk” and “the girl scouts have lost their moral compass.” Many people and groups also responded positively, and applauded the GSUSA for their inclusivity. But still, every single news organization that reported on the topic quoted the negative reactions as well, and even provided links to the anti-pages and petitions.

I wont point out all of the horrible policies the BSA have had in writing over the years. They made the decision to change those policies, and that is an undiluted win. However, I find myself put off by the language they use when announcing that they will now “let” girls in.

More importantly, I am openly disgusted by the way the rest of the world is choosing to talk about it. The same companies that started petitions before have been quiet when this announcement comes from the BSA. I could wish for a world where the leaders of those companies have learned and grown and become more accepting of the world – But I’m too cynical to actually believe that’s what’s going on here.

In fact, most of the negative press regarding the announcement has been directed back at the GSUSA themselves, because they dared to send a negative letter to the Boy Scouts. The same news sites who provided links to the petition against the GSUSA now describe this letter as “accusatory” and “petty” without ever actually quoting it directly. I finally found a copy of it. This is a classic example of women’s opinions being disregarded and belittled. A woman who speaks out is “aggressive,” and the only site that bothered to publish and quote the letter directly isn’t even regarded as a professional “news” site.

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The climbing wall at my Girl Scout camp.

So yes, news organizations across the country are sexist in their responses today – this really shouldn’t surprise me anymore. But even if I ignore the ways in which the announcement was handled, the actual change of “letting girls join the Boy Scouts of America” frightens me for the future.

That “accusatory” and “petty” letter the GSUSA sent? I found it very interesting that it seemed like their biggest complaint was that they tried to work with the BSA but were repeatedly turned down and ignored. “…Despite offering to engage in a constructive, collaborative sharing process, [the GSUSA] were disappointed in the lack of transparency…” I am not against co-ed scouting. I believe that if done right, a true gender-neutral scouting program could work. If the BSA and the GSUSA ever chose to join forces and provide opportunities for all children, I would support that whole heartedly. However, the BSA evidentially made their feelings on that idea clear. They are not interested in working with their female partners. This decision by the BSA is not gender-neutral and should not be applauded.

There is a special area on many college applications asking if you’ve received an Eagle Scout Award. If a teen boy gets the award, they get a call from their governor. Adult politicians running for office use it in their campaigns. The word count on the wikipedia Eagle Scout Award page is 4724. The word count on the Gold Award page? 987 (this blog post is already longer.) A New York Times article closes with this quote from a BSA troupe leader: “Everybody knows an Eagle Scout,” he said. But the Girl Scouts’ top award “is just not held as high or as valuable in people’s minds, and I’m not sure why.” Are you not sure? Because I sure as hell know why.

If you’re a young girl who’s looking at your future and listening to what people around you talk about – which sounds better the boy scouts or the girl scouts? As 16-year-old Cassidy says “Eagle Scout gets them somewhere on their resume,” she said. “It will be amazing to say you got Eagle and people know what you’re talking about and know the work you put into it.” Can you blame her? Sure, let the kids make the choice. And yet… How many women are there actually within the BSA helping to develop these programs for girls? What message does it send to a girl that you have to be labeled as a Boy Scout to get the award that everyone talks about?

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“Llama Trek”

Many articles on the topic talk about the girls who want to join the boy scouts. One BSA leader was quoted saying “Now, girls are going to be able to have the Scouting experience. …This is progress and overdue.” Let me tell you, I was a girl scout for all of my childhood and I had a great scouting experience. I got to play in the woods and get dirty every summer. I proved last night that I can build a better campfire than my boyfriend. I went camping with llamas, and as 13 year old girls we carried all our own gear. We made fun of the boy scouts who had an extra trailer connected to their van, because they packed too much. But you know what, yes, we also did arts and crafts. We learned about science and nature. We cooked our own meals, and they were delicious. We learned that “girly” things are just as difficult and worthwhile and rewarding to do as anything else. We were given examples of women in science and technology to follow. We proved that we could be brave and strong and adventurous. And you know what, we also proved that we could be crude, and dirty, and silly, and put worms in each others’ hair and be just as gross as the boys.

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His name was “Tangelo” and we helped each other for a week in the mountains. When he spit at me, I spit back.

I didn’t achieve my Gold Award, by the way; less than 6% of girl scouts do. I started a pretty awesome project – I was going to work to record and preserve some heirloom species of roses that grew in a nearby cemetery. Did you know that humans have changed roses so dramatically that most of the original species don’t exist anymore? Like the bulldog, we have shaped roses to match some strange exaggerated image in our minds. We have changed them so much, as they are today they can’t even survive without our help. If you asked me at the time, I’m sure I would have said I quit the project because I didn’t have time, I wanted to hang out with my friends, I had a lot of interests and a lot going on at that time in my life. I wonder now if I was just tired of explaining to people what a Gold Award even was – maybe I just got tired of saying “its like a boy scout Eagle award!” Wild roses are nearly extinct, and I wanted to help save them. Spend one day building a trail bridge my ass.

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Me, age 13?

The Girl Scouts gave me an amazing childhood, and shaped my future. They showed me I didn’t have to be a boy to do anything I wanted. So I plead with you, if you’re a girl in search of adventure, please don’t join the Boy Scouts. If you’re a parent, please don’t encourage your kid to label themselves as someone else out of a misguided idea. If you’re an adult who wants believes in a better world, please don’t applaud the Boy Scouts of America for their falsely progressive idea. There is already an amazing scouting organization out there led by women who know exactly how hard it is to become a strong female leader. The GSUSA have spent over 100 years helping women fight for an equal place at the top, and giving girls the tools they need to be strong and brave and determined in a world that denigrates their every interest. If the BSA really wanted to be progressive and gender-neutral, they’d recognize that.

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!

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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Silk Intimidation Scarf – In progress

Late last year I wrote about that feeling of being intimidated by yarn. (Read it here.) As silly as it sounds, just about every crafter or maker I’ve ever talked has felt something similar. Sometimes a base material is so beautiful you almost don’t want to alter it. You feel intimidated by an inanimate object. You’re almost not sure you can make it better by transforming it into something else, or you’re afraid you’ll screw it up and waste something so perfect.

But holding onto a yarn and never doing anything with it, no matter how beautiful, just isn’t the point. Yarn shouldn’t sit in a bag. It should be worn, and felt. And so, eventually, I got over my intimidation. And it was absolutely completely and utterly worth it.

This silk wool yarn blend is by far the most beautiful yarn I’ve worked with yet. It is soft, but smooth and silky with a slight fuzziness. The hand dyed colors are simply amazing. I’ve been able to create beautiful color transitions as I work one yarn in as the other one goes out. It is a perfect weft yarn. The warp is a dark raisin color in 100% silk that just slides through the heddles and reed.

This scarf is still on the loom. I’m still afraid that something might go wrong (you never know what might happen when you take something off the loom and full it…) But I’m still glad I went for it and played with the yarn that scared me. I’m taking photos pretty much every step of the way, for each solid color area and each transition area. I just can’t stop looking at this scarf.

Yarn Intimidation

I received some of the most beautiful yarn I’ve ever seen as a gift about a year ago, and I’ve been too intimated to do anything with it. Yes, I can utterly be intimidated by yarn. But I know I’m not alone. We’ve all had that moment where we’ve found a material so wonderful, and so perfect, we’re afraid to screw it up. Afraid to make that first cut of fabric. Afraid to unspool that yarn. Afraid to take the first step that you can’t undo, that means it’s begun and you better do it right.

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One thing that’s been holding me back is that the yarn is a wool/silk blend. It is spun slightly loose to make it light and fluffy and so so soft. But that means I’m a little afraid to risk it as warp threads, which take a fair amount of abuse from the heddles and the reeds. Its a great weft fabric, but it means I need something equally amazing as a warp fabric.

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I think I’ve found it. This is a super fine spun mulberry silk thread, dyed it a lovely dusty rose color. It is so smooth, and very very fine, but silk is super strong. And the color is subtle enough that I hope it will allow the dyed blend to really pop and be the star of the show.

Now, I just have to work up the courage to begin.

Peacock Scarf

Recently a friend asked me to create a scarf inspired by peacocks. I asked, “do you mean like the colors? Or are you looking for the shape of the tail? Or the eye effect the feathers have? What do you mean?”

She said, “whatever you want, you decide.” So, well, I did.

Sometimes overly generic guidance in creating an art piece for someone else can be irritating. What do they want? What do they expect? What if you’re wrong? But sometimes it really can be freeing. If you trust the person, and if they trust you, it can be awesome to just be like “sure, peacock, I can work with that.”

When I was commissioning this weaving bench, I told the artist “add something artsy to it.” He said “What do you mean?” “Just add something to it that feels right at the time. That’s something you came up with.” And he did. And I loved it.

Anyways, art inspired by friends can be really really cool. Here’s some photos of a scarf.

I used what is very quickly becoming my favorite scarf yarn: Earth Guild Dragon Tales. Its a point-draft twill pattern, and yes, I think the sort of maze like “spots” look like the eyes on a peacock tail to me, haha.

The warp colors are dark green on the outsize edges, and I mixed in light green towards the center to create a gradient effect. I used the same technique in the weft threads to blend between dark blue, light blue, light purple to dark purple and back again.

Personally, I think I fulfilled the “peacock” brief pretty well. And I loved making it and feeling inspired by just that one word. It’d be fun to try it again. Want a scarf inspired by your words? Leave me a comment and it might just happen!

Monet’s Water Lilies

A few months ago I saw a random image on pinterest of a model posing in an artist’s studio, and I absolutely fell in love with the dress she was wearing. After searching the internet for awhile, I could find nothing about the dress in question. Even with no information to go on, I wanted to recreate it, so I did.

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Artist Marc Chagall posed model Ivy Nicholson in his studio.

There weren’t many higher quality versions of the photo, so I couldn’t get a whole lot of details about the design on the fabric. I chose to make my version out of a print of Monet’s water lilies. Its not exactly right, but I love the effect it creates.

Finding the right pattern was tough too. I eventually settled on heavily modifying the Vogue 8997 dress. It closed with a zipper in the back, instead of buttons down the front. But the neckline was close enough, and it had the fitted bodice with wider skirt I was looking for. I reviewed this pattern here: Vogue Dress V8997 ★★★★★

Since I was going to be changing this dress’s structure in a fairly dramatic way, I did what I so rarely do and actually made a muslin first. Madness, I know! I didn’t actually use muslin fabric for my muslin, haha. Since I have spoonflower, I created a “graph paper” design that I really thought would help me layout the pieces, check that everything is on grain, measure it right on the fabric. It helped a lot, and its an idea I think I’ll keep using in the future when I effectively want to draft a dress from scratch, or modify a given pattern.

Please forgive the horrible lighting in the next few photographs. I was trying to get this dress ready to wear to a friend’s wedding, and didn’t actually take the time to take good pictures while making the dress.
First I laid the stupid tissue pieces out on my mock up fabric (I’m so spoiled by Sprout Patterns at this point). I traced my modifications in permanent marker, and then cut out the pieces.

Then I basted all the pieces together, and played with the fit until I liked out how my button band modifications worked out. Then I used the mockup pieces to cut out my real fabric.

I am well and truly pleased with this dress. Its not perfect, it has some sloppy places that I wish I’d been able to take my time to do right. But it is gorgeous on its own, and I like how close I was able to get to my inspiration dress.