End of an Era

I’ve talked previously about my inability to focus solely one “craft” and the way that I get so excited about new classes where I might try something out. I don’t think it’s necessarily a negative thing, but the downside of it is that I wind up with materials and supplies that aren’t getting used.

For two decades before I called myself a quilter, I was a weaver and spinner. A few years ago I finally sold my loom, but mounds of yarn remained. It took my neighbor Pam, who wanted to check my weaving yarn stash, to help me get brave enough and organized enough to finally sell it and a couple weekends ago we had a killer yarn sale. We sorted wool from cotton from silk and priced things at less than half the going retail rate. Pam told her weaving guild about the sale, I mentioned it at our quilt guild meeting, and Paul posted signs around the neighborhood. The weather was unseasonably lovely for a March morning, and we sat out in the driveway surrounded by tables of yarn sorted by color.

Though we were quite amused by a few of the people who read the “yarn sale” signs as “yard sale,” and stopped dead in their tracks when the saw the tables full of wool, mohair, cotton, and silk, the best part was how happy people were with their purchases. Any textile aficionado can relate to the thrill of getting a steal-of-a-deal on new materials, and I loved when people told me what they planned to make, or the way something would combine perfectly with their stash at home.

Despite having sold pounds and pounds of yarn, I was left with quite a bit at the end of the morning. I put an ad on Craigslist that night—$100 takes all. By the time I got home from dinner at 10 pm I had a taker, and she arrived the next day to pick it all up and take it home to her daughters, who were just learning to weave and knit. She sent me an email that evening, letting me know that one daughter was knitting, the other finger-knitting, and they were all dreaming of what they’d do with the rest. It was so hard to admit that it was time to let the yarn go and so it was especially lovely to know that what sat on my studio shelves for years was inspiring others to create.

How about you? Have you ever admitted it was the “end of an era” and divested yourself of supplies? Did you miss them? Or was it a good thing?

Textile translations

I’m a fan of the American Craft Council and managed to find time to read their latest email. It linked to a blog about the American Craft Council show that was held in late February in Baltimore and the Awards of Excellence given to a chosen few participants. The Baltimore show is a granddaddy among these amazing juried craft shows—when I lived in Northern California I used to attend the show at Fort Mason in San Francisco and was always knocked out by the creativity and workmanship of the participants.

At any rate, this year’s awardee in fiber is a weaver named Gretchen Romey-Tanzer. As a former weaver, I’m always interested in seeing what’s new in the world of warp and weft, so I clicked on her website. The jeweled colors and simple elegance of her work make it evident why she’s a winner. It’s also an example of the way using quality materials pays off: the reflective quality and depth of color in her cotton yarns makes the pieces glow.

All this is to say that when I saw her multiple-paneled pieces, I was struck by how that technique might be translated into quilting. I’ve been writing about modern quilting of late, and the graphic quality and use of solid blocks of color in Romey-Tanzer’s weavings echo the sensibilities of many contemporary quilts. Make sure to check out her other work for inspiration! (All images by Gretchen Romey-Tanzer, reproduced here with permission.)

Arachnophobia

Spiders have never been my favorite thing. I get creeped out when I wake up with a spider bite, but my distaste for spiders isn’t really a phobia—I’d just rather they stay in their hole and I stay in mine. I’m not afraid of them like I am of poisonous snakes (I’ll actually pick up garter snakes if I see them, but my Southern California childhood taught me to check for a rattle before picking up a snake…something a girl on my junior high school playground neglected to do).

At any rate, I was catching up on my New York Times today and saw this article from Sept. 22 about the “silk” of golden orb spiders in Madagascar being woven into this gorgeous, saffron-colored textile. Not a thread broke in the weaving process: the fiber is so naturally strong it’s been used to make fishing line and nets. To read the article, look here.

An unexpected windfall…

Last week a package arrived in the mail—a manila envelope from someone whose name I didn’t recognize. Inside was this beautiful, handwoven towel and a letter from the woman who bought my Glimakra loom this past summer: the towel was from the first warp she’d put on the loom. She wrote a detailed note about how much she was enjoying it, about the rep rug she was weaving, and how it was so pleasant to weave because of the tremendous shed on the loom.

Selling my loom was a tough decision. I’d bought it more than 20 years ago and it was quite a stretch for our family to make that purchase. But it served me well for many, many years: I sold my work to friends and family members, at fairs, in a shop, and through an interior design firm. When I had little children I tried to weave at least a couple of inches every day so that I could feel I’d accomplished something that didn’t need to be repeated (like cooking and laundry) just as soon as I’d completed it.

But when I went back to grad school my weaving slowed to a trickle and when we moved ten years ago I didn’t set up my loom right away and the basement where it was going to be located was taken over by teenagers (mine). It sat in pieces in a storeroom until, in our big basement clean-out last summer, I decided that I was now a quilter and it was time to let the loom go to someone who’d use and appreciate it. Getting that package from Mary Beth really reaffirmed my decision to move on to a different phase of life.

FMQ?

Finest monkey quid? Frankly more quarrelsome? Feeling mighty querulous?

When my friend Anne R. first offered to teach me to quilt, I remember the lingo she used seemed exotic. What were fat quarters? A stash? The difference between piecing and quilting? It was a foreign language, but once I learned to walk the walk, it didn’t take long to talk the talk. So I’ve learned that FMQ is an abbreviation for free motion quilting, especially when referred to online.

I’ve had my share of trials with FMQ. I first learned when I took a class at Common Threads to make the Sunday Satchel. I could handle the nice square of fabric, keeping my stitching relatively even. But when I tried to do anything larger, in particular a baby quilt, it was a god-awful mess. I can multitask with the best of ’em, but keeping myself from putting the pedal to the metal with my presser foot while at the same time moving my hands evenly…it was like the worst case of not being able to rub my head and pat my stomach. Or dial my cell phone and drive (fortunately, not quite that dangerous).

I mentioned that I got a new machine recently—the money was the result of selling my lovely Glimakra Standard loom this past summer, along with my spinning wheel. It wasn’t an easy decision—I always told myself I might weave and spin again when I retired—but they’d both sat idle for many years and it was time for someone who wanted them to use them.

With my new machine, I’m able to unplug the foot pedal and simply press a button: the speed is controllable by a sliding lever. It’s just what I needed to make FMQ really fun. This weekend I quilted an entire baby quilt—turned on my two new Christmas CDs (The Essential Yo-Yo Ma and Lake Street Dive Promises, Promises) and spent a really relaxing evening. Here are the results: not perfect, but a definite step up from the my previous attempts, which looked as though someone ought to be arrested for the maltreatment of fabric and thread.

Now I’ve got to get a binding on it. The baby for whom it’s intended was born last night—an 8 lb. 14 oz. girl. Can’t wait to meet her!