weaving


Earlier this year when I prepared to dedicate a worship stole I made for my brother in his memory, I talked to some of his ministry associates about how much I enjoyed creating the piece. There was so much meaning in planning, weaving, dyeing and sewing a stole that would be used for something as important as a church worship service.

I could see Dave’s former associate, Marla, a Lutheran Deaconess, sitting there thinking during the conversation.  “You know,” she said smiling, “I could really use a stole for the Advent season.”  And so it began.

I told her I’d be happy to make one for her.  It would mean a lot, since she and Dave had successfully partnered in a collaborative ministry at St. Paul’s.

It took a few weeks, just to think about the design, but I finally settled on a dyed warp in blue (those are the Protestant colors of Advent).  Over the summer, I painted the warp with three colors of dye and was struck at how much it looked like water, so I quickly named the design “Living Waters.”  While Advent was the goal, this stole could easily double for baptisms.

One of the challenges in making a deaconess stole, is that it is worn across the body and pivots on the hip downward toward the leg. It needed a dart, but it couldn’t show.  So I played around and finally settled on a dart inside the stole which would be covered over by the extra fabric.

I used one of Marla’s other stoles to make sure the dart was deep enough to pivot properly.  It ended up being about an inch.

For the symbol, I settled on a spiral I had seen on the Canadian deaconess website.  The spiral indicates outward movement and activity, something all deaconesses are known for.  They are very active in their communities.  And as the spiral moves out, it bursts forth in love, hence the symbols on the outside.

I used some pale yellow stash yarn and dyed it a deeper yellow on my stove one afternoon. Then I made a crochet chain and stitched it on. The biggest challenge was finding a proper fabric for the spiral bursts.  I wanted metallic, but it was September at the time and nothing was out for Christmas yet in the fabric store.  I wandered for a long time, and then I found it.   Pleather!  Can you believe it?  That cheesy fabric from the 70s was exactly what I needed.  I cut it in triangles and glued it with fabric glue.

A couple of weeks ago, my family and I attended worship services at St. Paul to celebrate the First Sunday in Advent.  Marla talked about the stole and even let people touch it (although she joked that she doesn’t usually encourage that sort of thing). But handwoven fabric begs to be touched and she got that.  It was a great morning to see the stole on the altar.  I know Marla will make good use of it in her abiding ministry.

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I belong to a small weaving group that sets a challenge every year to make us better weavers.  This year we are supposed to make a bag based on a color palette of our choosing.  We can get our inspiration from the lining we choose, the inkle bands we wove this summer for straps, or other sources.

This year, I spent a lot of time natural dyeing fiber and I have spun up most of it into weaving yarn; so I know what colors I’m using.  The sticking point for me was the type of bag to make.  The last thing I need is another tote!

So recently, I started coming up with ideas during a long weekend vacation in Washington D.C.  I just got a new Canon EOS T2i camera and was forced to carry it in a backpack purse of mine.  It was certainly not designed for camera carrying.  Hmmm.  I need a bag for that.

My project is now a backpack to carry my camera and lenses during my travels. Now the challenge is the design–the structure of the bag and the weave structure of the fabric.  On a visit to the National Museum of the American Indian (Smithsonian), I had a field day taking pictures of some of the incredible weaving that inspired my vision of a backpack design.

I just love the colors and the design of the bags, basket and clay pots. Each one gave me great ideas on some of the motifs I’d like to try. Ever since I started weaving, inspiration seems to be everywhere.  I will go back to these pictures when I’m ready to start sketching out my ideas.

I’ve been away from this blog for a number of months.  It’s been a Spring that has left me at a loss for words.  In fact, “loss” has been something I was forced to confront on a number of levels.

The most heartbreaking was the death in late March of my older brother Dave, a vibrant 55-year old Lutheran pastor who was taken very suddenly by an aortic aneurysm. It’s hard to explain how devastating this has been to the entire Smith family. He was deeply loved.

If you’ve been following this blog, you might remember that about a year ago, I posted some pictures of my preliminary work in making a worship stole for Dave based on the season of Pentecost.  It was some woven shibori work I decided to tackle.

I finished the stole last Fall, but Dave was between calls, meaning he was not serving a permanent congregation at the time. He was an interim for a short time and he wanted to wait to receive it when he found a new church home. I kept the stole in my drawer waiting for that day.

It never came.  When he died, we placed it near him at the visitation; then the Bishop brought it up to the altar during her funeral sermon. That was in April. 

When we neared Pentecost, I decided it would be a shame for the stole to go unused.  I called the church he served for most of his ministry and last Sunday we dedicated it to St. Paul, Sharon Center, Oh.  I presented a powerpoint of slides similar to those in last year’s blog post.

 

Pastor Judy McGuire took off her own stole and put on Dave’s.

 Then we said a prayer and wiped away some tears.  It was a wonderful tribute on a beautiful June Day.

When we last visited about weaving and sewing issues, I had managed to salvage some unintentionally felted wool into a vest.  But the original project was supposed to be a winter coat.  Around the Christmas break, after the vest was complete, I bought some terrific wool from my local fabric store to sew the coat that I needed.  This almost felt like handwoven.  I was literally picking out the vegetable matter from the fabric as I worked with it.  But I loved the warmth and drape of the fabric. And I chose a stunning, red, flannel-backed lining to add warmth to the coat.

I chose a Very Easy Vogue coat pattern to use and I had to think long and hard about whether to use the view with the hood.  But in the end, it was my walk to and from the parking lot of my job that sealed the deal.  The hood was a go.

Then I had to consider the buttonhole treatment.  I experimented with a variation on a bound buttonhole.

But after I purchased some terrific and rather large buttons, it was suggested that instead of buttonholes, I use large snaps.  It was a good decision.

I got the coat finished just in time for some pretty wicked winter weather.  My husband took this photo of me in the coat as the winds whipped around us one Saturday after shopping at Cleveland’s West Side Market.  The hood offers great protection against the cold winds.

When I add a knitted scarf, I’m nice and warm during a winter that’s been filled with ice, snow, rough winds and, as I write this post, temperatures that started off this morning in the single digits.

Goodness.  I’m embarrassed that it’s been so long since I visited with you. The holidays, work, and a variety of factors kept me away from Between the Threads for over a month.  But I’m back with some nice projects to show for it.

During October, I spent some time at the loom weaving up 5 yards of material from Harrisville Shetland Wool cones.  It was a very nice twill structure and I used some handspun for a contrast.

Then I decided to full the fabric as I prepared to make a coat.  I threw it into the washer on hot, just for a few minutes. And then…. uh, I got distracted by my daughter who “needed to talk.”  Let’s just say that when I ran frantically to the washing machine to pull the fabric, it was felted beyond belief.  It was toast!  The part with the purple handspun was thick enough to use for a horse blanket.  Weave structure- gone! The magenta part at the top of the picture brightened considerably, but shrunk significantly so that a coat was out of the question.

Time to make lemonade:)  I needed a new purpose.  The purple accent fabric was cut off, doubled over, and now makes a nice surface for pressing on my ironing board. Then I went to a workshop one night at my local, independent fabric shop.  It was all about working with wool.  I raised my hand.  “Anyone have any suggestions for a this?”  I told my story and got ideas for a vest.

I’m not a big vest person.  They tend to look boxy on my short body.  But with little else to use it for, I got a nice pattern from Kwik Sew and set about making a vest.

The first order of business was making something flattering out of a thick wool felt.  It was all about reducing bulk.  I spent hours carefully fitting the pattern with added darts in the front and back and using ideas from Sandra Betzina on working with boiled wool.  In this picture, you can see one of the back pieces.  I used a diamond shaped dart to create shape, but instead of cinching the fabric together like a traditional dart, I cut out all the fabric.

I did this because Sandra says it takes out all the bulk.  It worked beautifully when I pressed the edges together and zig-zagged the seam after backing it with fusible interfacing.

You can’t even see the seam on the right side of the vest.  The thread is buried in the felt.  It was a cool trick.

Well, I eventually finished the vest before the holidays by putting a nice lining in it.

And I wore it for Christmas, adding earrings and a pin my husband gave me that morning which he had picked out specifically for the vest.

Tim Gunn always says, “Make it work.”  I think, this time, I did.

Juggling each part of my life is a skill I’m learning quite well.  Fitting fiber into the daily circus is yet another challenge; but I would say it’s a necessary one. It provides me with satisfaction–making something beautiful hopefully, and it gives a focus beyond meals, children, and my day job.  Sometimes, the little projects keep things on an even keel.

I finished this little project last weekend.  It sat waiting for months and after my friend Annie got me back on track, I was able to finish it.

I’ve had a bag full of fiber in my closet for the longest time.  I finally grabbed three hanks and spun them individually before plying.  It was a combination of mohair, wool, and suri alpaca.  I thought I wanted to make socks, but the fabric was too dense.  Maybe a hat, but I’ll have to see.

I did manage to warp my loom a couple of weeks ago when I had two solid days to devote to it.  This week, I’ve carved out time to weave.  The fabric on the bottom is hand-spun as weft, the top half is the same yarn as the warp, creating more of a textural pattern.  I hope to use this fabric for a coat.

Finally, I am busy planning another weaving project.  One of my guilds is studying krokbragd.  So I’m trying to figure out the yarns for the project.  I often use my “Yarn Store in a Box” from Halcyon Yarns for planning because there are so many sample cards to work with.

So I may not be able to juggle like a circus clown, but I can juggle projects and other responsibilities like a pro– most of the time.  Until I drop the ball.

I’ve got one of her books and a DVD, but there’s nothing like meeting Judith MacKenzie face to face.  I had the wonderful good fortune to be invited to the home of a new friend last weekend, who just happens to be friends with Judith.  While she was visiting this woman, they decided to host a workshop on Wheel Mechanics and Spinning the Diameter of Yarn You Want.  It was that great combination of learning and good fun.

I have found over the years, that the best instructors are those who combine technical knowledge with good storytelling abilities.  Jacey Boggs has that quality and Judith has it in spades.  This woman has had a full and interesting life!  And she shares her tales with gusto.

So you walk away from her workshops needing time to process all her wonderful tips about the science and art of spinning while also smiling about her stories, adventures and passion for history and experience.

It was an amazing day and I will treasure it.

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