Thursday, April 30, 2009

Ciao ~

I've just returned from a lovely trip to Venice....oh, no...well...I guess that wasn't me...that's Ms. LS over at . But I don't think she's back, but I decided to return from my hiatus.

I've been somewhere between busy and brain dead. Tonight though the brain is still ticking so decided to finally post.

Don't think that I haven't been posting in my brain-dead brain though. I wrote a hilarious post in my head yesterday while driving back home after dealing with a relative's house I am selling. I also wrote quite a long but serious post in my head about having trouble saying "NO" to people. And then there was the in-my-head post about how "swine flu" keeps rolling around my noodle like a bad 1980's rock ballad.

Back when Marcos was tossed out of the Philippines and Imelda's shoes were the topic on every talk show, I had the name "Corazon Aquino" playing in my head for (I SWEAR) months on end.
C*o*r*a*z*O*n A*K*EE*n*O C*o*r*a*z*O*n A*K*EE*n*O C*o*r*a*z*O*n A*K*EE*n*O

It still rings in my head today....but right now playing as the number one hit is....

s*w*I*n*e f*l*U s*w*I*n*e f*l*U s*w*I*n*e f*l*U s*w*I*n*e f*l*U

Okay, okay quit already with the damn swine flu ~ let's talk about the highlight from those blog posts that played out in my head.

So I'm driving home from Bellingham on Wednesday after visiting with one of the hired workers at the relatives house. Turns out this guy was madly in love and supposedly engaged to my immediate supervisor (place of employment purposely not mentioned) about 10 years ago. He told me about how she crushed his heart and all, and how he is happy now. As I left the house I had a flashback to when his girlfriend and I worked together.

She was/is a very attractive woman and knew it very well. She played men to get what she wanted, and had quite an impressive skill in how she could maneuver around the office and building. There was always an air about her.

During the summer months she had her favorite sun dress she'd wear at least once a week. Feeling pretty, she'd glide around the office trying to catch attention.

On a regular basis, I'd need to pop into her office to ask a question or say something. She would always look a bit disturbed as if she just simply didn't have time. One warm day I walked around the corner to speak with her ~ she was standing at her file cabinet filing things away.

At first it took me by surprise since there was no way I could avert my eyes ~

There she stood, at her file cabinet, trying to maintain an graceful pose with her back to me...she was completely unaware that her sun dress had been captured between her cheeks ~ she had a full sun dress wedgie going on. OH MY GOD!

This image stays in my head ~ rolls around like Corazon Aquino's name and the dreaded swine flu. The whole thing wouldn't be so hilarious if she was always trying so hard to be so, well, you know, queen bee like.

And then there was the next supervisor that wrote up and published a job description that required a future co-worker to maintain "roosters" rather than "rosters". She was a piece of work too!

So that's my story of the day, or of yesterday. Today, well, nothing in my head but swine flu.

~ The images are paintings by my niece Mary Barnes Bivens. Mary painted these back when she was in middle school. I'm thinking they would make good tapestry cartoons. What do you think?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

9 years ago... ~, my precious Steven and I married. Yes, were were both over 30. Yes, it was the first marriage for each of us. No, neither of us brought a ready-made family. Yes, it is worth it to wait for the right man...

Our official portrait.

Making it legal.

Posed pinning.

With my dad. Yes, we did have beautiful flowers.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

wired ~

So maybe my connections aren't what they should be ~

a little squeal on the phone, horrendously loud static, Internet service that drops away during a blog post.

What the heck, having the phone man at the house isn't so bad when they bring special weave-worthy gifts!

Here's the gift ~

Yes, it is 25-pair phone cable!

Yes, if you look closely to the left, it's a 1000 foot wheel (bobbin!) of cable.

Yes, far less than half of it is gone. So that's like 500+ feet left! Holy cow! Those Zulu basket weavers have nothing on me, man.

keeping connected ~

It has been difficult lately ~ my phone and Internet connectivity has been "bad" at best. The phone company techs have been stressed by my odd symptoms:

~ dsl sound over the phone line
~ dsl service intermittent
~ dsl & phone connections testing clear

With the techs crawling around the house, I've learned a great deal about how we are wired. I've also, sadly, learned that my husband is right (don't tell him I said that) ~ I confess!


Today I will tidy....

well, more than tidy....

I will attempt to move my piles of STUFF into organized piles of STUFF....

I will then take my piles of organized STUFF and move the specific items into the rooms where they belong....

From the rooms where the items belong, I will attempt to place the items in their rightful home....

If the items do not have a rightful home, I will contemplate if the item needs a rightful home (I may sit at the spinning wheel for an hour or two while contemplating this ~ my husband will have gone to work by this time)....

If an item is worthy of a rightful home, it will be placed appropriately in its new rightful home....

If an item is not worthy, it will be placed in the unworthy pile (oh my god! yet another pile)....

The unworthy pile will be deemed donation worthy....

Donation worthy items will be placed in the garage for disposal....

Can you see what I see? I can organize! I can organize, but I just simply have trouble with the executions side.

Please help ~ tell me, someone, how to push past the organizing/planning stage to move toward full and complete execution.

I will post now while I still have connectivity......

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Orange, orange, orange ~

Orange, orange, orange ~ one of my favorite colors!!! Just look at this blog ~ it is all orange. Ms. LS has informed the world that she has gone orange too.

Below she has been fully morphed (sans uni-brow like Frida and Tula B. Jack of course ~ see previous post for the fine details).

Monday, April 13, 2009

sarah swett saturday ~

The beginning of every month is like CRAZY busy for the fiber folks in the upper most northwest corner of Washington State. Typically within 12 days, three different guilds meet (often more than once with the different incarnations of weekday groups and weekend groups) ~ plus, there’s the weekly knitting groups too. Last Saturday, groups converged (SpinDrifters, Whatcom Weavers Guild, & NWHandspunYarns) at Nancy’s Farm. The convergence occurred due to the very special guest speaker scheduled for the day…Sarah Swett!
Who is Sarah Swett you (foolishly) ask?
~ in no particular order ~

  • Sarah is a tapestry weaver.
  • Sarah is a natural dyer.
  • Sarah is a spinner.
  • Sarah is a painter.
  • Sarah is a writer/author/novelist.
  • Sarah is a designer.
  • Sarah is a needle pointer.
  • Sarah is a rock star. And,
  • Sarah is so much more!

Sarah Swett

She’s a Rock Star ~ She’s Got Passion

Yes, I’m using the term “Rock Star” in its colloquial sense (as far as I know, Sarah doesn’t play in a rock band), but anyone who was at Nancy’s Farm on Saturday knows exactly what I mean.

Sarah isn’t the Idaho-living earth mother I thought she was ~ she is a woman with bucket loads of energy who has more than a simple flair for telling a story ~ Sarah is also a woman full of passion about her artistry and creativity. With her abundant energy, she is fabulous, simply fabulous!

Brooklyn born Sarah Swett talks like each moment is her only moment and possibly her last moment to tell her story. We were enchanted by nearly two hours of her stories last Saturday featuring her beautiful tapestries, dyeing, knitting, and creativity.

Knitting ~
As Sarah told us, she has knitted FOREVER. I was first introduced to Sarah’s knitting in Melanie Falick’s book Knitting in America, which I checked out from the local library a million times before I finally found a copy to buy.

I brought this book with me to see if I could get Sarah to sign her chapter ~ can you believe my surprise when I walked in and found that she was wearing her sweater featured in and on the cover of the book. At that moment I knew this was going to be a great day.

Probably the most wonderful part of Sarah’s knitting is that she does what she likes. She likes wool that can be next-to-the-skin soft; she likes using light-fast natural dyes; she likes the knitting to tell her what it wants to be.

She is obviously tickled by her own work ~ she samples and swatches to her heart’s content.

Sarah told us about how she knitted this coat in a manner that allowed it to tell its own story. Somewhat like freeform knitting, Sarah began to knit what she was inspired to do and kept adding, changing and modifying her project until it developed into the finished product.

Her Warp, Weft & Loom ~
The warp and weft of Sarah’s tapestries have a story too. As a spinner and dyer, she relies on her own handspun and hand-dyed weft for her work. The warp is (or can be) her own handspun, specifically handspun by others for her, or (if she's lucky) commercially spun wool that meets her specifications. Sarah only uses wool warp ~ she found that cotton and linen warp did not give her the permanence she needed.

As she explained to us, cotton and linen warp can allow the wool weft to shift and move a bit (or a lot!). Some tapestry weavers (like James Koehler) use the weft’s ability to move along the warp to their advantage ~ with a little tug and twist; the finished tapestry can be manipulated into alignment.

Sarah likes to use highly twisted, strong, wool warp. Wool keeps the weft from moving around and gives the piece more stability when the scales on the sheep’s wool warp and weft lock together.

She also likes to have great control of her weft ~ she spins and dyes her own weft yarns. By selecting her fleeces carefully and keeping meticulous dyeing notes, she is able to keep an inventory of a vast array of spun singles (one strand of yarn that hasn’t been plied with another strand) dyed to an exact color, shade, and tint.

Here Sarah shows us her notebook of detailed information on her dye process.

Sarah’s loom made everyone think that they could try tapestry weaving too! She essentially weaves on a loom that costs under $20.

Her loom is a modification of the Archie Brennan copper pipe loom. Sarah’s loom is made of PVC pipe and other pieces one can easily find in local stores. She also has detailed instructions in her Kids Weaving book (see bottom of story for references).

This loom is light weight and portable. It does have project size limitations due to its ability to hold a high tension warp, but for most practical purposes, this loom does it all.
So Sarah’s got the warp, weft and loom, next she percolates ideas and creates her cartoon. A cartoon is the master plan ~ the drawing that is used to guide the tapestry artist. It is often placed behind the warp threads as the artist weaves (see the image of Sarah’s loom ~ a small cartoon is behind her in-progress weaving).

Tapestry ~
With plans to study science with future plans to teach or be a vet, Sarah enrolled in the University of Idaho, Moscow. After taking a weaving class, she was hooked. Her weaving teacher suggested she take a tapestry class being offered by Joanne Hall. Although tapestry didn’t immediately “hook” her, Sarah found that once she did delve into the medium, she was under its spell.

Without the influence of constant classes and workshops (yes, you know who you are ~ workshop junkies), Sarah developed her tapestry skills on her own. She didn’t have a controlled learning experience like in Japanese Sumi Painting where the student sits and watches the master paint for hours only to graduate to the position of ink grinder after years of “watching.” Sarah’s hands were in the fiber working the weft right away.

Initially weaving from the front and allowing her weft ends to fall to the back of her piece, Sarah’s talent for discovery led her to move toward two-sided tapestry weaving. In this process, the weaver (still working from the front) skillfully lays the weft in and overlaps the adjacent weft thread. As Sarah described, this process really only works with broken (or pulled apart) weft ends ~ not cut ends. The weft fiber needs to be “feathered” out so that the thin end of the old weft and thin end of the new weft “commingle” to the same thickness of the normal weft pass through the warp.

Sarah’s weaving process is the complete opposite of Canadian tapestry artist Ruth Jones (see blog post from Friday, March 20, 2009). Ruth works her tapestry from the back on a horizontal loom keeping the weft ends on top (or front side) of the weaving, Sarah works on a vertical loom weaving in all her weft ends.

With an ability and fondness to tell a story, Sarah moved toward novel writing ~ three so far. In one novel, her main character was involved in weaving long lovely tapestries. “Margin Notes” are the outcome of Sarah weaving as her fictional character wove ~ lovely waves of color, simply being what they are with no specific purpose other than decoration.

In the work below (six separate small-scale tapestries), she shares storyboard style tale of a young woman knitting and knitting ~ note how time passes and the knitter’s hair grows long. This work shows the influence of Sarah’s recent reading of a book by Scott McCloud (Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga and Graphic Novels).

By discovering (or rediscovering) “Grandmother’s craft”, Sarah has ventured into the world of needlepoint (see the current issue of Spin Off magazine). She finds tapestry and needlepoint very similar in structure (i.e. structure of canvas compared to warp and ends per inch).
Like Kaffe Fassett and Alice Starmore who have ventured into needlepoint by drawing on their other talents, Sarah works her needlepoint in a manner like her knitting and tapestries. With handspun and dyed wool, she stitches narrative designs to continue her dialog with fiber and her audience.

Beyond the tangible activity of having her hands on the fiber, Sarah has also written about her work and weaving processes in articles and a book about getting kids to weave.

Kids Weaving, published in 2005 by STC Craft/A Melanie Falick Book, isn’t a book only for kids. This book has some wonderful beginning projects and detailed designs for her PVC pipe loom. Weave a rag doll warrior (aka Weaving Warrior) or a treasure pouch ~ Kids Weaving is inspiring!
Getting inspired is the first step in learning to weave or learning any other craft/fiber art. Don’t be shy, just get started!

As Sarah told us on Saturday, “ideas are sometimes shy.” By knowing that her ideas are shy, Sarah has kept pushing through shyness and worked through her ideas until they develop. Whether it is tapestry weaving, natural dyeing, spinning, painting, writing, designing, or being our Saturday rock star ~ Sarah Swett is passionately driven to create.

References ~
Sarah Swett's website:
Kids Weaving, published in 2005 by STC Craft/A Melanie Falick Book
Weavecast with Sarah Swett interview:
Spin Off magazine:
Handwoven magazine:

Below is the original cover of Knitting in America ~

The same book was reissued, retitled America Knits but not revised. The new cover is shown below ~