Tuesday, May 12, 2015


When I first started sewing, my mother said to me, "What you sew, sometimes you must also rip".  I guess that holds true for weavers also.   I had been making some progress on my blackbird tapestry, but I hit a snafu when I realized the tail looked really odd.  In the photos that I based my tapestry on, the tail is quite large, but I think we are so used to seeing crows a certain way, that when I wove to what was really in the photo, it looked odd.  So, I am going to go back and reweave more to the expectation of what we think we see when we see the crow, or at least what we see on most crows.  So, I don't have any weaving to share.  

However, I thought I would share other happenings.  I did some sewing these past few weeks to have juried for the studio tour here in Bainbridge Island, along with some of my tapestries.  (You can see the vests that I made on my blog With Needle and Stick.)  I am awaiting the verdict of the jury to see if I am accepted.  In between the sewing and the weaving of the blackbirds, we have been enjoying the spring weather.  You can see Muppie the Spinone in the winter fog and the spring sun still begging to come in no matter the weather.

The weather this spring has been really variable.  One day or even one hour might be cold and rainy with periods of sun breaks throughout the day.  (I was not familiar with this term until moving to the PNW (Pacific Northwest), and yes, we really do have sun breaks).   The next day will be clear and sunny, and even occasionally downright hot in the sun.   

We have tried to spend at least a couple of days a month exploring our new environs. In March, we spent one day during the kids' spring break over at the Skagit Valley tulip festival.  The tulips were really quite beautiful and it was fun to see all the different varieties.  The colors are really lovely.

A couple of weeks ago, we traveled up to Hurricane Ridge in the Olympic National Park.  There was still a bit of snow left there, although normally at this time of year there should be over 100 inches there.  It will be a really dry summer here, unfortunately.  

Many of our weekends are spent at soccer games.   The last fews weeks were spent going to the State Cup games.  Despite a season of only one tie and one win, my son's U14 team managed to win the State Cup.  The boys were really excited and were hamming it up for all of the cameras turned on them.  I don't blame them, they really made some great strides playing as a team over the last couple of months.  It was a warm sunny weekend, but natives keep telling us, don't get used to this spring weather, it is not normal.

One thing that has been really fun for me and my daughter has been spotting the wildlife around the Puget Sound.  She spends one day a week in an after school program that has the kids out on the Sound paddling kayaks or stand-up paddle boards or canoes.  We seem to spot wild sea creatures every time I go to pick her up.  The week it was a purple sea star.  Apparently, they have been under pressure from a wasting disease the last few years, but I recently heard on the news that they are making a comeback this year.  The second photo is of a ratfish which is usually deep in the Sound, but comes to the surface in the spring and fall to either feed or breed.  It is a very beautiful fish with a long skinny tail like a rat or mouse, but glides through the water more like a skate.  This past weekend we even spotted a school of dolphin at the north side of the island.  

The view from our back windows is ever changing.  Today a strange sight glided past, a bit Loch Ness like?

In the photo above you can see it is being towed by a tug boat.  They tow rafts of logs through the Sound.  It is an interesting sight, however, it leads to many free floating logs and parts of logs throughout the Sound ensuring that you must have an alert boat driver if you want to safely navigate the waters.

The Puget Sound is an interesting place.  I am intrigued by the sea life here and want to return to weaving fish.  If I can just finish this doggone blackbird!

Monday, March 30, 2015

A Fun Workshop

The past two Sundays I went to a Pet Portrait workshop.  Originally I signed up because my daughter was interested, but she decided it was not for her, but I finished the workshop yesterday.  I have never been into drawing with colored pencils, but it was a fun process run by a local artist here on Bainbridge who works at the Bainbridge Arts and Crafts.

We started with 8x10 photographs, used tracing paper to trace out key lines, then transferred those lines to nice paper.  We then used colored pencils to fill in with color.

My first drawing was of our dog Giallo as a puppy.

It was a fun process.  I am not sure how I will mount this piece.  I don't usually frame things, so I am in a quandary.  The teacher said she is playing with mounting work on wood boards, but we will see.  Yesterday I started one of our older dog Elsie.  You can see this one in the process.

I have just started, and it will take a lot more work to get all of her fur in the drawing.  It is a fun process.  It reminds me of my embroidery work with layers and layers of small marks of various colors to get the depth you want.  I don't think I will rush out and hang my shingle out for drawing pet portraits, but it is fun.  Although, these portraits would probably be much easier to sell these than tapestries!

Here is the latest photo of my blackbird tapestry.  I am halfway through the weaving process.  I am pleased with the progress so far.  I took some photographs of crows at the beach yesterday looking for dinner at low tide along the sound.  I may have to weave that image as the next blackbird tapestry.

I am off to do chores now, with little hope of weaving today.  The kids are on spring break, and maybe I can get my son out to help with finishing our table today.  Okay, maybe not, but I can be optimistic!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Finally Weaving Again

We have unpacked most of our boxes.  I now have to give away boxes of books which I am loathe to do, but we don't have enough bookshelves and after many years of marriage and adulthood my husband and I have accumulated quite a few books.  I have saved the ones I use for reference and those I may read again, the old friends that I can't part with.  But the others we will pass on to the local library for their fundraising sale.

I have more or less set up my new studio, unfortunately it is the darkest room in the house.  At some point I will try and figure out a way to get more light in the studio with a combination of skylights and lighting, but for now, I struggle to weave with a couple of lamps.  I do have a peaceful view from the studio.  Here is a typically grey PNW (Pacific NorthWest) day full of light rain.

I started a new tapestry on one of my pipe looms.  I don't have enough light to work on my peony tapestry right now, and I need to finish a couple of new tapestries to submit for jurying for a studio tour in August.  

Bainbridge Island is full of images of blackbirds.  We do have a lot of what I call crows.  Of course we had a lot of crows on our farm in Virginia too, but we also had the arrival of the grackles in the spring.  I never really minded the grackles, but I am now reading how they have begun to be a real pest in some areas.  Our grackles arrived in the early spring, made a lot of noise for a few days, wandered around the farm and then disappeared until fall.  One day as I worked at my computer, I grabbed our camera and snapped several photos of them as they wandered around our backyard.  I decided to start with those images.

This is the start of my first blackbird tapestry, and I hope to do at least two of them.  It is nice to get back to weaving and creating.  It makes me feel as if I am accomplishing something.

Now I know that science backs up that feeling.  If you don't get American Craft and haven't read this article ("Making it Better") you should.  Using your hands makes you feel better, decreases depression, lowers anxiety and stress, and increases self-esteem.  Now if someone wants to know why you weave, or knit, or embroider, you have a good scientific reason.

Plus, now I will give you another good reason to work with your hands.  It gives you a great excuse to listen to good literature and learn something new listening to CraftLit.  If you haven't found this podcast yet you should.  I learned of it from the blog My Life is but a Tapestry...  It has changed my life.  I can listen to great books that I would never get around to reading, get online "cliff" notes from Heather, the host of craft lit, and learn about the crafting world all at once.  I started with one of my favorite books, Jane Eyre, moved on to Gulliver's Travels, a book I had never read and would probably not have read on my own, and then onto Dicken's Bleak House, a very long book which I have not finished listening to yet, and I am now listening to Herland, a really interesting book that has a lot to say about our society in the early 1900s.  If you haven't given it a try, go on over and check it out.  It is free, unless like me you get really hooked and then I pay $5 per month to listen to extra books.

Hope you are having a wonderful spring.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A New Sense of Place

I have been away for a while from this blog.  In the last few months we have been preparing for and executing a big move across the country.  Our new address is Bainbridge Island.  I will miss our farm, but it is very interesting living this close to the "ocean", okay we are really by the Sound, but it is salty.  I look every day hoping to spot the orcas that call this area home, but so far, I haven't seen them.

Our house is still in major disarray.  I keep reminding myself it took 5 guys two days to pack everything up, so I can't expect it unpacked so quickly when it is mainly I am doing most of the unpacking myself (although my son did unpack all of his room, and my husband helped with the kitchen).  Also I am a slow unpacker, as I unpack, let it sit, then try to figure out where it should live.

My studio is the darkest room in the house with really no views and no natural light, so we are going to have to work to change that, but it will take time.  Hopefully I can at least get a little light in there to weave by, but we will see.  It may be that I knit for a while before weaving.  In the meantime, painting is on top of my list.  I am going to go up and paint my daughter's room today, so we can then get her unpacked and set up.

Here are just a few views of the Sound that I have been admiring over the past few weeks.

Here, the view of Seattle is obscured by fog, but sunlight lights up a portion of the sound.

A beautiful sunrise over Seattle.

 Yet another sunny winter day in Seattle with views of the Cascades.  We kept hearing that we would have nothing but grey skies all winter, but we have had many days of partial sun.  Today the sunrise was beautiful, and the sun is shining on my back and the dogs are snoozing in patches of sunlight that have lit up our house.  We have had some grey days, but not every day is grey, many days are grey except for 2 or 3 hours of sun mostly in the afternoon.   I love looking at the ever changing views of the water.  I feel that a series of small tapestries documenting the light changes over the sound and Seattle might be called for.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Summer Shows

The summer is midway through, and I haven't really gotten any weaving done.  My son and I have been building a table, and I have been doing some knitting in preparation for the Fall Fiber Festival at Montpelier in October.  I just find that having my house in a chaotic mess makes it hard to weave, but maybe I am just looking for an excuse.  However, this week, the floors are being laid, and the installer has almost half the floor done in my studio.  I am hoping to have my loom and all my supplies back in the studio by Wed. of next week.  I will need to do some touchup on the paint, but I am looking forward to having my studio back in order.

In the meantime, Joan Griffin sent a snapshot of our group's tapestries from Untitled/Unjuried at Convergence.  However, we did title our group's theme which was Virginia Blues.

I finally was able to go to a Tapestry Alliance show.  We were on vacation in San Diego and I was able to attend a show for the first time.  It was a beautiful show.  I was not able to take photographs, although I did sneak one of Joan's tapestry to show her the installation.  It looked beautiful.  Rebeccca Mezoff has several of the photos on her blog you can look at.  I really enjoyed the show and the kids enjoyed the ability to go through and pick their favorite tapestry and vote for it.

Visions Art Museum is a lovely little quilt and textile arts museum in an old military base that has been refurbished.  Despite our many trips to San Diego to see my inlaws, we have never gone down to this part of town near the airport.  The buildings are filled with art studios and restaurants.  We had some very good Japanese food there, and then went to the museum.  The staff were very nice and fun to talk with.  

Just a plea, one of the women there told me there is a debate about whether or not to host another ATB at the museum because despite the fact that Visions says it is a quilt AND textile museum, most of their members are quilters.  There is a debate about whether the tapestries are too different from quilts and whether it has been good for the mission of the museum to host the show.  The woman I spoke with says she has very much enjoyed seeing the tapestries and that it has brought many new people to the museum.  I want to encourage all of you to write to the museum to encourage them to host ATB again.  To make it easy, here is the email address of the executive director Beth Smith, beth@visionsartmuseum.org   I know that the Dairy Barn is also hosting the show and they are also primarily a quilting venue.  Please let Visions know we appreciate their venue and would love to see ATB there again.  If you are in the Southern California region please visit!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Weaving Amidst the Chaos

We had a pipe burst January 25th.  Since then, we had dry wall and floors ripped out, baseboards taken out, and half of our belongings are stacked in bedrooms, bookshelves, and floors.  My studio is stacked in piles in the kitchen, the hallway, my sewing room, the bedroom.  My loom sits in the floor in the living room, which isn't all bad, since I have plenty of room.  However, things are just a mess.  Finally, this week after lots of wrangling with the insurance company, getting lots of quotes from contractors, and finalizing numbers with the insurance company we are getting the drywall repaired.  Who knows when the flooring will be in....

But, I am trying to weave amidst the chaos.  Happliy, the tapestry seems no worse the wear for having the loom dragged down the hallway.  I am making slow progress on my peony tapestry while listening to Jane Eyre on CraftLit.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Weaving to the Last Minute

My children's spring break started March 28th, but we were leaving for Rome, Italy on March 26th, so I HAD to have my small tapestry finished for the ATA Unjuried show by then.  I wove like crazy, but life kept creeping into my weaving time.  I had agreed to substitute teach for a week, which turned into more days as snow days and closed airports delayed the regular teacher, plus I had children home sick with the flu and more snow days.  It was a very snowy winter here.  So much so, that during the last snow the kids didn't even want to get out to go sledding.

Anyway, I did finish at 1 am on March 25th, packed up the tapestry and got it ready to mail.  I wanted to sew eel grass onto the tapestry.  But the silk grass I made from the silk I had on hand did not work. I think the tapestry works without it, but I will be putting it on later to go with my series of fish.  I have at least two more tapestries I want to weave that include kelp leaves, now I will need to weave at least one or two more that will involve eel grass.

I have learned through this weaving process that eel grass, like so many other things in our environment, are under stress.  Eel grass provides cover for the baby fish that populate the Chesapeake and Atlantic Oceans, including bluefish which are what my tapestry portray.  Here is a glimpse.  I hope you will be able to see it in Rhode Island.

I did get this mailed on the way to the airport.  We found a postoffice just a couple of miles from the airport.  It will appear with the Central Virginia Tapestry Group's group them of Virginia Blues.