Monday, October 6, 2014

Coverlet College

I had the opportunity recently to visit The National Museum of the American Coverlet to view the Kaleidoscope - Simmermaker exhibition and participate in their Coverlet College.

John Simmermaker, a fellow Hoosier, is an avid coverlet collector and many of the coverlets in his collection were made by Indiana weavers. My personal favorite was by D. I. Griggs, the featured weaver of the year. This one makes my heart go pitter patter.

The geometric design of the center combined with the fancy border makes me think of a quilt with an appliqué border. The dark indigo looks almost black.

But what I really love is that he carried the red plaid through the border and placed the birds and the separating leaf in just the perfect spot - everything about this coverlet is symmetrical. I am a huge fan of symmetry. Okay, okay, I'm anal about symmetry. I might even be close to OCD about symmetry.

I fell in love with D. I. Griggs as I viewed his collection because we clearly shared that passion.

Oh, what I would give to sit next to him while he sat in his weaving chair to pick his brain. Notice the same bird border in another one of his coverlets behind it.

The two day course consisted of a combination of lecture and close study of actual coverlets.

I learned a great deal more than I ever anticipated. We covered everything from weave structures and loom mechanics to fancy fringes. There were so many lightbulbs going on in my head you probably could have landed a plane by them.

I was even able to finally learn what my 10th great grandfather meant when he willed his "loom and half the gyrs" to one son and "the other half of the gyrs" to the other son. Seems he owned and worked a draw loom and the extra shafts, connecting ropes and reeds for a particular damask pattern would have been stashed on the wall and collectively would have been referred to as "the gear" for that pattern.

Of course, now that I know that I want a draw loom. Then I could make a replica of the D. I. Griggs coverlet.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

How Many Miles of Yarn Can a Spinner Spin?

That is the question I hope to answer by the end of the day once I measure. It was a successful Tour de Fleece. I know I have spun a tremendous amount of yarn, yet I still have a few singles to ply before I can calculate a total yardage. All I know for sure is that I made a huge dent in my fiber stash and that's a good thing.

There was a lot more going on around here than just spinning during the tour. While walking off a large lunch one afternoon I found a set of antique quilt blocks that had never been assembled in a local shop. Still feeling inspired by the Chicago quilt show, I had to have them. The humble but charming blocks had been made of old men shirts - you can still see some of the seams. I sewed them together, added a pieced ticking backing in the form of a giant nine patch block and tied the whole thing together using my homespun yarn. I think it looks like a little boy's crib quilt.

I also couldn't stop thinking about the wonderful giant cutting table my friend Karen had ordered during the quilt show. Having a huge top to lay out projects is a wonderful luxury. As I sat there in the studio one day I had and idea. What it I pushed two furniture pieces together and just put a piece of plywood on top?

Look at how well they fit together. It was like it was meant to be. I love it. And when I tied that crib quilt I didn't have to crawl around on the floor to do it, which makes my shoulders and knees very happy.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Prairie Pursuits Series of Workshops

Hey, for all of you who keep saying you'd like to learn how to do some of the things I do, there are workshops coming up at Conner Prairie. Go ahead and sign up! There are other workshops than what I've listed here such as blacksmithing and pottery so go check out the website Prairie Pursuits Workshops 2014 Schedule.

Prairie PursuitsSeries of Workshops
2014 Schedule

Prairie Pursuits offers how-to workshops geared to adults in a variety of topics, from historic trades, to culinary skills, to the arts. Browse the offerings this season and see what new skills you can develop on the prairie.
Call Guest Services at 317.776.6006 for reservations or register online

Beginning Weaving - Four Harness Loom
August 23 & 24: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (both days)
$185 ($175 Conner Prairie member)
This class will focus on designing, step-by-step warping and weaving an attractive wool scarf on a four harness floor loom. Includes all materials needed for the class. Ages 14+

Basketmaking - Make a Kentucky Egg Basket
Wednesdays, October 18: 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
$145 ($135 Conner Prairie member)
Learn the basics of weaving an attractive and practical Kentucky style egg or melon basket. Using eye and rib construction, the fundamentals of weaving a basket of reed will be covered. All materials included. Ages 14+

Wool Spinning
Saturday, November 8: 10 a.m.-3 p.m.$
90 ($85 Conner Prairie member)
From sheep to spun wool- You will find it all in this class. Learn to wash, card wool and spin it on a drop spindle. Then try you hand spinning on a modern treadle wheel. All materials included. Students will get a drop spindle and a bag of wool to take home. Ages 14+

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Tour de Fleece

It is that time of year again where spinners across the globe gather in clumps and even more often in the privacy of their own homes to compete or at least just do a little spinning each day. I fall in the latter category. The tour coincides with the Tour de France running July 5 through July 27. Just like the "real" tour there are rest days and challenge days. I am on Team My Favorite Sheep.

Just like the cyclists in France, you need the right equipment in order to truly compete. It is all about the technology. It just so happens I recently had a birthday. My dear husband gifted me with this beautiful great wheel and so far she and I are off like a heard of turtles. (Picture me with a wide-brim hat riding a three-wheel tricycle with a flowery basket hanging in front of the handle bars while all the streamlined cyclists whiz past me.)

They are really hard to find in good working order around here so he has been looking for years. We had even been considering taking a trip to the East coast where you can find them more often. All along I thought it was interesting how willing he was to try to find one. I mean he's always supportive, but not necessarily "actively" supportive. Once we were home and setting her up he admitted he wanted one because his grandmother had one in an old home in Harbor Grace, Newfoundland where he visited as a child. So it has been decided the wheel's name is Beatrice, aka Be Be, in honor of his grandmother. It is fitting given that my cherry Norwood loom is named Lula in honor of my own great-grandmother who's maiden name was Norwood.

I am making good progress and hopefully will continue to do so. I'm not competitive at all, for me it is just therapeutic work that in the end results in something beautiful and useful.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Finish What You've Started

I have a list a mile long of projects I want to start. Things I want to make or do. However, I also have a list a mile long of things that need finishing. The guilt of those unfinished projects has gotten the better of me lately. I've been whacking away at that list like a woman searching weeds for snakes.

First off, I quilted and bound my small pile of doll quilt tops. All of the patterns are by Kathleen Tracy at A Sentimental Quilter. I plan to use these to decorate the guest room at some point in an antique toys theme. I still have more kitted up and another needle turn appliqué already finished to add to these but I plan to hand quilt that one which can wait awhile.

I also needed to get a housewife made for my son. The sewing kit kind not the marrying kind. (Although if anyone has any leads on the latter let me know.) He works as a Civil War interpreter and  his uniform needs repaired often so I pulled out some scraps and made this last night. Now that he can sew on his own darn buttons maybe he won't be quite so rough on his uniform. :)

After bringing home the new loom I needed to reorganize Sheville a little. I've been plugging away at filing, sorting and making tough decisions about what can stay and what has to go. I've started loading my Etsy page with quilt patterns, historical costume patterns, roving and whatnot and will continue to do so over the next few weeks. Then, hopefully, I can finally start production on the Tenth Street Textiles projects laying in soon as I finish taking inventory. *sigh* There's always something.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Move Over Mildred There's a New Loom in Town

Just when Sheville was starting to look a little sparse along came a deal that I couldn't refuse. I recently met a woman who, back in 2008, thought she would like to take up weaving. She didn't just dip her toe in, she dove head first and bought a deluxe Schacht weaving package that included an eight shaft Mighty Wolf, matching bench, 14 yard warping board, extra reed, raddle, lease sticks, warp sticks, 8 shuttles, swedish bobbin winder, etc. She then wove two or three projects and never looked at it again. This loom is in such like-new condition it still gleams. It was the deal of the century, I HAD to buy it. 

So now I can set the Norwood up to do sectional warping for rugs and large projects, while I use this gem for the lighter weight projects. I'm so excited I might pee my pants if I'm not careful. I think I might need to reduce my liquids intake for a day or two.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Scraping and Painting and Scraping and Painting…

That will be our story until the snow starts to fly again. The kind folks at our local preservation alliance awarded us a facade grant to help pay for the overhaul of the paint on the wood portions of the exterior of our home.

By my estimation there are 847,000 pieces of wood that need scraped and painted.

I am actively recruiting young bodies to assist in this endeavor as the mere thought of it makes my old body hurt.

I can't wait to see the end result. We all think it is going to look amazing.

Monday, June 23, 2014

International Quilt Festival

My local quilt shop hosted a bus tour to the International Quilt Festival in Chicago over the weekend. My friends Karen and Milah joined me and we had a great time. It is always inspiring to see what insanity talent there is out there in the quilting world. The time and effort it would take to make some of these is mind boggling.

 This next one was so beautifully hand quilted it took my breath away.

And the needle turn appliqué was perfection.  This one was the show-stopper for me.

I appreciate the talent it takes to make an art quilt, but it has never really been a thing for me. I prefer the traditional style of quilting. Yet, even I have to admit that these next two are just freaking amazing.

As for my personal tastes, I like the following the most. I can't help it. I like the simpler traditional quilts. 

This one proved you can make a beautiful quilt with very simple quilting.

Again, more simple quilting in the next one.

The riot of color here makes this look complicated but it is really a simple design.

This next one borders on insane only because of the tiny scale of the pieces. 

A simple nine patch will win me over every time. 

But if I could only pick one to take home with me it would have been this one. I love it so much I'm adding it to my to-do list. 

The maker did a block exchange and then tied it all together. I think I'll try doing the same.

I came home inspired to get all my unfinished tops quilted so I can start on new projects. I set up an assembly line to machine quilt all the small quilts I have had hanging on the design wall. I even tried setting up my antique hand-quilting frame to work on a larger quilt, but the darn thing is too big for any of the small rooms in this house. It is a little too hot now days to work with a hoop in my lap so that one will have to keep waiting. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Weaving the Perfect Fingertip Towel

There is something very satisfying about pulling a weaving project off the loom, finishing the hems, washing and pressing it and having it turn out even better than you expected.

I have absolutely fallen in love with the texture of this draft (click the pic below to bigify.) Just enough texture - not too much. I will be weaving a lot more of this pattern. I think it would make the perfect washcloths.

I also love that these are made of 8/2 cotton manufactured right here in the good old USA. I'll be keeping two of these and the others will eventually make their way to the Tenth Street Textiles Etsy Shop.