Monday, January 30, 2017

Sewing rather than Weaving

January is a time of new beginnings and so it is for me and my family.  I bought a sewing shop almost three months ago, and it has been a time of real change both personally and professionally.  I left an engineering career 16 years ago to stay home and raise my children who are now in middle and high school.  Two years ago we moved across the country from a farm in Virginia to a house near the water on Bainbridge Island.  The opportunity to buy the store come up at the end of last summer and after a lot of family talk, talking to those in the community, and soul searching, my family bought Esther's Fabrics.  I am the eighth Esther in a long line of women since the first, Esther Fox.  

I am spending more time at the store and trying to figure it all out.  Weaving has taken a backseat, at least for a while.  If you are interested, check out Esther's Fabrics.  Thanks for reading my blog, and maybe after I get the business figured out, I can come back and finish some of those unfinished tapestries.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Pacific Time Zones

Since moving to Seattle, we are in the Pacific Time Zone.  It is a strange thing for an east coast Southerner to be living at the far corner of our country.   I forget sometimes about the time change, and I have to think before calling my sister or a friend out East.

Living as far north as we do, it is funny but I don't find the winter darkness too daunting.  But the summer light, I find very strange.  The sun rises at 5:12 today, and it won't set until almost 9.  The light suffuses the sky around 4 and lingers until about 10.  Last week, my son needed to take some photographs for his photography class and wanted to take photos of the sunrise.  So, at 4 AM when the light was already lightening the sky to a deep blue, I drove down to a beach on Eagle Harbor.  My son, our dog and I sat in the 50 degree morning dew waiting for the sun to come up.  We were far enough around the harbor that we could not see the sun as it rose over the Cascades, but we saw the effects of the light on the water and its reflected light on Mount Rainier.  It was one of those moments where I clearly thought to myself, this is a special moment, take a minute and remember it, for before long your son will be gone.  (I clearly remember another of those moments when I stopped to make a point to remember the moment, that was when I first brought our son home, and I was in our bedroom nursing him looking out over our Virginia farm).  Scott who is now in high school took photos of the sun coming up and the reflections on Mount Rainier, and of the ferry as it headed out to Seattle for the first run of the day.

This photo of the photo doesn't do it justice.  He printed it on canvas to frame and hang in his room, but a lovely photo of the ferry as the sun reflects off the windows.

Here is a portrait my son took of me last winter in the fading afternoon light with black and white film.  I love this portrait, and I don't like many photos of myself. 

But back to Pacific Time Zone, I am happy to say that I have had a tapestry accepted into the Tapestry Artists of Puget Sound's exhibit, Pacific Time Zones.  I submitted a couple of tapestries, but they accepted my portrait of Linden.  I decided to weave this portrait using Helena Hernmarck's technique after I came back from her workshop three years ago.  I am so excited to be included in this show with so many other really wonderful weavers.  

I hope I can drive down to Corvallis, Oregon to see it hanging, but it is quite a drive from here.  The exhibit hangs in Corvallis at the Arts Center from August 18-September 20, 2016.

I was so disheartened by my results from my last weaving, that between getting ready for the Bainbridge Island Studio Tour and life with kids, I have not woven anything since.  Maybe this acceptance is just the boost I need to start weaving tapestries again!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Is There Any Hope?

I "finished" my peony tapestry.  I say finished, but I feel like I am not finished with it.  First of all, even if all was as I had hoped, then it still needs to be blocked, the ends trimmed, and the seams for the woven frame sewn to the main tapestry.  However, I am VERY UNHAPPY with this tapestry.  It really doesn't look like a peony at all.

I am trying to decide how much time and effort to put into trying to fix this tapestry, versus just putting it away and saying well here is what I did right, and here is where it went wrong, and then packing it away as a major learning experience.  Not all, okay, none of my tapestries turn out the way I envision them in my head, but at least I tend to like them.  This one, I can't say I like it, even a smidgeon.  I think the main issue is that the grey shadows are way too dark, and the middle just looks a bunch of red blobby stitches.

I really don't think there is much hope for this mess, but I may still try and salvage it this week before I completely give up.  Helena Hernmarck's tapestry method does allow for sewing in some new stitches.  I might be able to add some more white highlights in a way that will make this grey blobby mess look more like flower pedals.

I do like the red frame that I wove for it.  In the meantime, I have a few minor adjustments to make on the portrait of my daughter.  Her tapestry came off the loom at the same time as the peony.  It has been on there for a while.  The weaving on her face needs a few minor adjustments as does the beret, but I am far happier with the outcome.  Maybe my hopes for submitting these to the ATA biennial are done for, but we'll see as I try and salvage both of them this week.

Here is hoping your weavings are going more successfully.

Friday, October 16, 2015

A Change of Venue

After our move, I have mourned the loss of my tiny, but bright studio in Virginia.  I had a great skylight that got lots of light, and windows to our front yard and a window into our kitchen.  The studio was never dark, and I loved my little space.  Our house in Bainbridge has lovely views.  We traded the green hills of Virginia for the ever changing water views of the Puget Sound.  I love our new views.  I miss seeing my horses out in our fields, and the kids and I miss our land, but I also love our new views.  The water of the sound are ever-changing: one day fog, the next sun, calm blue water, dark grey water with white caps and spray.  However, my studio is dark, dark, dark, with no lighting.  I cannot see the colors to weave, so I have not woven on my big loom since we moved here.  Last week while my husband was on a business trip, I folded up my loom, dragged it out of my dark cave into my well lit bedroom with views of the water.  My husband came home and said, "Wow, I thought our bedroom was much larger, maybe I am just used to the hotel room I was in!"  It took him a while to notice the loom though.  Good soul that he is, he has not really complained, and I can finally get back to weaving.

Here you can see my loom in its new home with the early morning light.  ( I apologize for the questionable quality of the photo.  It was shot with an iPhone, my son now has our nice big camera for his photography class.   Maybe I can hire him as my photographer for my blogs after this semester!)  Now, I can comfortably sit weaving in the light listening to Craftlit!  (I just finished with The Strange Case of Jekyll and Hyde, and are now starting The Scarlet Letter.  These are two books that I have never read!)

My goal is to finish this tapestry by next Friday.  Hopefully,  I can cut it off the loom and get both tapestries that are on this loom off and finished in time to submit them both to American Tapestry Alliance's Biennial.  This biennial will have a showing in Tacoma, so it just seems fated that I must get in, right?  Tacoma is so close.  Well, you never know, but I can always dream....

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.