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Fiber Festival… and I’m not talking bran

May 4, 2012

All week when I tell people I’m participating in my first fiber festival, they immediately think I’m talking about something health related, like bran or oats. It’s hysterical. I guess our national consciousness is now so aware of the importance of fiber in our daily diet that people have forgotten about other kinds of fiber… like YARN!

It’s true. Daily doses of fiber are important to our daily lives… whether we’re talking bran or knitting and weaving. If you need a daily does of fiber this weekend, please visit the Fiber/Dance 2012 festival in Santa Ysabel this weekend (May 5 & 6, 2012 from 10am-4pm each day). If you print out this blog post and bring it with you, you’ll get 25% off any Artsy Feltsy woven shawl purchase (discount does not apply to hand-knitted items).

The festival kicks off tonight with a belly bance gala at Wynola Pizza. For more information about the festival, visit the website at http://weaverslink.com/fiberdance-festival-2012/.

 

First fiber festival

May 2, 2012

I’m so excited! I am going to be a vendor at my very first fiber festival this weekend!

I’ll  have a table at the Fiber/Dance Festival in Santa Ysabel on May 5 & 6, 2012. I’ll be selling my Artsy Feltsy shawls (www.artsyfeltsy.com) and hand-knitting, and hopefully demonstrating weaving. Beryl Warnes, the owner and fiber artist of Julian Weaving Works, is my mentor (I’ve been mentoring with her since last summer), and she organized the festival. The festival features everything from sheep to shawl, as well as belly dancing, and other art forms (jewelry, goat-milk soap,).

If you’re in the area, please join us. The festival schedule and more information is available at http://weaverslink.com/fiberdance-festival-2012/ (keep checking back for updates).

And guess what? This was the kick in the butt I needed to get my business license, seller’s permit, mailing address and fictitious business name all set up. Two days and I’m done! I might procrastinate, but when I have a deadline I can crank it out!

 

Selling my art

April 1, 2012

Close-up of shawl from the Fields Collection

It’s really interesting going through the creative process and then pricing it. I’ve been weaving for about 9 months now and have a great mentor, Beryl Warnes. She’s teaching me how to combine all different kinds of yarn into unique shawls and other kinds of one-of-a-king wearable art.

A week ago, I sold the first shawl to my friend, Kyle, at a dinner party (he thought his wife, Jean, would look beautiful in it), and my confidence soared. Not only did he literally buy the shawl off my back, but he didn’t hesitate at the price, even saying “you’re not charging enough.”

Setting the price of a piece of art is so subjective, but after his comment I reevaluated my pricing strategy. I know that creative people rarely charge what their work is worth. I was no exception. My original price for the first three shawls I made didn’t even cover the cost of the yarns I used. I told myself these were my “learning shawls.” But they aren’t. They are works of art, each one of them.

Autumn Sunrise shawl

The yarn I’m using is high quality… hand-painted kid mohair, baby alpaca, merino, pima cotton, wool blends, acrylic blends, and sparkly, fancy yarns, too. None of these yarns could ever go through an automated loom. You’ll never find one of these shawls in a department store or manufactured overseas. The slubs or bumps in the thick and thin yarn and mohair get sticky and have to be hand combed every time I advance the loom. These are yarns I was going to knit with, but they create such beautiful woven pieces of wearable art, I’m turning my “stash” into the shawls.

The “learning” part of the price is in my time. Right now, my labor is about 50-cents an hour for the time it takes me to wind the warp (1-2 hours to pick the yarn and wind), dress the loom for each collection (2-6 hours), weave each shawl (2-4 hours), tie the fringe and fix the “floats” (1-2 hours per shawl).

Peggy's Earth "Kezzy Metal" shawl

It’s all done by hand. And that’s why it’s art. And that’s why it costs a little more than what you’ll find in a department store.

Three separate collections of one-of-a-kind shawls are available on (www.artsyfeltsy.com). The Autumn collection is primarily oranges, with pinks, teals, blues and tan depending on which shawl you pick (Autumn Sunrise,   Autumn Sunset, Autumn Midnight). The Fields collection is primarily greens and blues. The Peggy’s Earth collection is primarily browns. There are moebius and “kezzy metal” (or Quechquemitl) shawls as well as straight shawls that would also make beautiful wall hangings or table runners. Fifty percent of the proceeds from sales of Peggy’s Earth collection shawls will be donated to Kaiser Permanente Hospice Agency in honor of Peggy Hughs. She and her husband, Jerry, gave me the loom when she was diagnosed with cancer two years ago, and I was weaving these shawls when she passed away about a month ago.And in case you’re wondering, Jean does look beautiful in the shawl.

My friend, Peggy… knitter, beader, crocheter, weaver, woman… wonder

March 4, 2012

 My friend, Peggy Hughs, passed away last week. News of her death was not a surprise. She had battled cancer for 25 months (the doctors had given her 6, but she wouldn’t hear of it!). She fought valiantly; her husband, Jerry, by her side every step of the way. In one of Jerry’s daily status updates, he mentioned that the hospice thought it was a matter of 2-3 days… it turned out to be 7. I saw her on Friday, three days before she passed. Comfortable and lucid when I was there, we had a wonderful conversation about my latest knitting project (the Gap-Tastic Cowl in Berocco’s Bobolli yarn) and I shared a loom end of one of my latest weaving projects with her. She held it in her hand while I was there… I hope she felt the yarn at the end.

The first time I met Peggy and Jerry it was at their son, Jerry’s, retirement party. We had worked together at the County of San Diego for 2 years. We ran into into each other again in 2007 after the wildfires that swept through San Diego. They had worked at the County, too, and when we needed people to work in the Local Assistance Centers, they were ready, willing and able to be “retired rehires.” I was one of the managers of the LAC in Ramona and when we started talking realized we shared a love for travel, fiber (the yarn kind) and cats. Some relationships have been built on less. They shared their pictures of Morocco with me and the stories of living abroad while Jerry was in the Navy. Their travel stories helped fuel my travel dreams. My husband, Paul and I had them over for dinner; we went to theirs… usually when their son, Jerry, and his wife, Cathy, were visiting from Seattle.

We kept in touch off and on through the next couple of years. When Peggy was diagnosed with cancer I realized I didn’t have much time left with her. She was a great knitter, crocheter, weaver and she made beautiful beaded jewelry. They gave me one of their looms, a Leclerc 4-harness beauty. They’re why I started weaving. I will always be grateful for that. They were a great couple, great role models, and being in their presence helped shed light on what makes a long marriage a happy one. Laughter, shared experiences, not taking themselves too seriously, being kind to each other, doing for the other, adoring each other. Loving each other.

Today I taught Jerry how to flip eggs to make eggs over easy. We had a nice time; a nice visit. He showed me some jewelry Peg had made and asked if I wanted any of it. I picked out a beautiful chartreuse stone necklace and a brown/black/red beaded one. Jerry noted in an email to me tonight, “it means a lot to me knowing that many people will be wearing & thinking of Peg as time passes.” We looked through her yarn stash and knitting books. It was a little overwhelming for me to see someone’s stash without them there. I often joke with my friends that I have stash beyond life expectancy, but never for a minute do I believe that any of it will be around after I’m gone. Their granddaughter only wants her knitting needles… her hands touched those and made such beautiful things.

"Peggy's Earth" shawl collection in process.

I’ll be going back to see Jerry and go through Peg’s yarn to figure out how to use it, and donate the rest to Stitches from the Heart. Peggy knit little things for little babies and they can use the yarn to keep making more. I took a little bit today that I can weave into the brown shawls I’m making now… “Peggy’s Earth” collection. I’m weaving them in her memory, using some of her yarn, and will donate the proceeds to hospice. It makes me feel good to know that people will be wearing Peggy’s memory around their shoulders even if they didn’t know her. Hopefully the shawls will bring warmth and happiness into their lives, like Peggy brought into mine.

New store – www.ArtsyFeltsy.com – is up!

January 10, 2012

I am now a professional weaver.

I have just posted my first collection of shawls on my new website, http://www.ArtsyFeltsy.com, for sale. Right now it’s a basic site, but my brother is going to do it up right (he’s an amazing web designer… lucky me!).

Please “Like” the page and join me on Facebook and Twitter… both are ArtsyFeltsy.

And please let your friends know.

Weaving Hangover

July 25, 2011

I started my weaving apprenticeship yesterday. If there’s such a thing as a “weaving hangover,” I woke up with one this morning. My legs and hips feel a bit sore from pumping the pedals on the loom and I kept waking up from dreams about yarn and what I’m going to weave next.

It was a truly magical day for me yesterday during my weaving lesson to kick-off my weaving apprenticeship with Beryl Warnes at Julian Weaving Works.  My head “exploded” several times by what she showed me.  The mill, using different warping yarns for color interest, and talking about the different yarns I can use from my stash.

First, Beryl showed me how to figure out how much warp yardage we needed, measure the warp on a mill (much easier than a warping board), dressed the loom, and got started. We were doing a “tabby” weave, so set up the Leclerc (jack) loom to lift heddle frames 1 & 3 together, then 2 & 4 together. All told, it took us about 3-4 hours to measure the warp and dress the loom.  But that warp is enough for five 21″-wide, 90″-long shawls.

How to hold the shuttle correctly, how to wind bobbins correctly… all part of the first lesson. The bobbin holds the yarn and the shuttle holds the bobbin.  The shuttle gets passed through the “shed” (the area that opens between the top and bottom layers of yarn as the pedals move the shafts up and down).  You’d think holding the shuttle and winding the bobbins would be the easy part, but no.  Actually there’s quite a technique to winding a bobbin so that it’s tapered on each end, wider in the middle… but not too wide because you don’t want it to get stuck half way through the shed. Holding the shuttle just right to give it enough oomph through the shed so that it goes through flatly, not pointed up or down so it goes between the warp yarns… then you’ve got a tangled mess.

The weaving part works like this… press the right pedal when throwing the shuttle from the right, pull the beater forward, let go of the right pedal, push down the left pedal, release the beater; left throw, pull the beater, let go left pedal, push down right pedal, release the beater.  It’s a lot of hand-eye-foot coordination. No wonder I felt like I had a hangover this morning.

After about an hour, I got my rhythm down. Two-and-a-half hours later, I had a shawl. 

We made fringe on the ends and I took it home to soak in cold water and Downy for 20 minutes.  Spin on the handwash cycle in our front-loader and hang to dry.  This morning, I have a beautiful, drapey, off-white shawl that will work great all year round.

My next apprentice session is on August 7, which will give me time to do some weaving on my own Leclerc loom and get in some more practice.  I don’t know what I’ll be working on next for Beryl (it will be something she’s got on one of her looms), but I can’t wait!

The new (to me) loom

July 23, 2011

My friends, Jerry & Peggy (aka Kermit and Miss Piggy), gave me a four-shaft Leclerc loom last year.  It’s beautiful.  The wood is gorgeous.  Everything about it is wonderful.  Did I mention it’s big?  It is 53-inches wide and, at full extension, 38-inches deep.  My husband, Paul, and I turned our extra bedroom into the “Loom Room” so we’d have a place to put it and conceivably a place where I could escape to create beautiful, woven blankets, rugs, fabric, or whatever else my heart desired.  (I should probably mention here that the “Loom Room” also is lined with my yarn stash in clear plastic boxes on shelves around the room next to the ceiling and it’s where Paul’s closet is located.)

Dressed loom.

In early Summer 2010, master weaver Christie Dunning came to my home and made sure all the pieces and parts worked like they were supposed to.  When we started to “dress” the loom (put the warp yarn through the dents in the shaft), we noticed that the white cotton was turning a rust color.  We stopped immediately and I spent the next couple of weeks, spraying on CLR (a rust remover) and wire brushing it to get all the rust off.  After it was all nice and shiny she came back to see how I’d done with dressing the loom.  Not so well it turned out.  I hadn’t followed her instructions closely enough and ended up making the warp too wide.  Plan B… baby blankets.  Use up the baby Jacquard acrylic yarn I have and make blankets for babies yet to be or to donate.  Not only will this help me learn how to weave, but it will pare down my stash. (Plan C now exists, but that’s for a later blog entry.)

After Christie’s second visit we headed off to Lake Tahoe and I didn’t touch the loom again for several months. I finally got through about 8 inches of baby blanket by April, then whammo… kittens in May!

Mama and her kittens that we fostered.

A whole litter that needed to be fostered with mama. Our male cats, Dickens and Oliver, were NOT happy about these intruders and we had to keep everyone seperated.  The only place to keep Mama and the kittens was in the “Loom Room.”  Yarn… loom…kittens… you get the picture.  I covered the peddles with a blanket so they wouldn’t fall between the peddles and choke themselves (they were soooo little when we got them).  As they got bigger, the loom was great fun for them to practice their climbing skills and chase each other around the legs and up the shafts.  We finally had to cover it with two sheets and safety pins to hold it all together.  But those little guys and girl found their way up inside and started wreaking weaving havoc.  After 7 weeks of fostering them with no real damage except for a pee spot, two days before we were to take them back to the animal shelter for adoption, I noticed that the tension bar was hanging catty-wampus.  They had chewed on the string and essentially caused the whole warp to hang to the right.  I haven’t had the heart to fix it yet.

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