Summer of Basics 2018

I've made three garments (and completed a 4th) since Summer of Basics started in June, but only one of them was on my Official List because I'm bad at focusing. Oops!

Here's a quick recap of what's been through my sewing machine over the past two months. Spoiler alert, they're all Grainline Studio patterns:

Hadley Top

This is my second go at this versatile top, just with different variations. I'm still obsessed with the front and back seam details, and I loved working with the View A back pleat. Both of my Hadleys are sleeveless because that's my go-to style: easy to layer up and helps me stay cool in the summertime (and also all year round because I'm always too warm). Another reason I love the Hadley? It's a-line shape and flowy drape means it's roomier than my favorite Willow Tank , skimming the body with more movement that's both cooling and flattering. Since I first cut into this rayon/linen blend back in, oh, I don't know, January?- finishing up the arm and neck facings in July doesn't really make this a summer sew, but I couldn't resist sharing.

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Driftless Cardigan + Uniform Tunic

I've been wanting to make a lightweight cardigan in a non-basic color for awhile, as I have just one RTW cardigan in my closet in black. This bamboo rayon jersey from Stone Mountain & Daughter Fabrics is a nice earthy tone (fitting that the color is called Terra) that provides color without being ostentatious. 

I had my cardigan in mind when making my Uniform Tunic, which is why I opted out of the front apron pockets. I've been wanting to add a tunic to my handmade wardrobe because I love a longer length to pair with leggings. I think the v neckline on this is so subtle and sweet and keeps me from feeling too boxy. It looks like Stone Mountain is currently out of this color-way, but the Double Dash design is just as lovely in Pepper.

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Archer Button Up

The real star of this summer for me is my long-awaited Archer. Both of my RTW button-ups are red flannels, and I was so excited about this blue/green plaid; it feels more laid back and somehow. (???!) I purchased this flannel from Domesticity about a year ago, and had meant to sew this up last fall. After all of that stalling, I was determined that nothing was going to stop me from making an Archer for this upcoming season. This was definitely a skill test for me, and I really wanted to prove to myself that I could master these elements. My finished version fits perfectly buttoned up on its own, yet feels roomy enough to layer over t-shirts and tank tops. It's so soft and comfy, I have a feeling I might be reaching for this every single day come October.

I can't recommend highly enough the Archer Button Up Sew-Along posts if you are new to a lot of these techniques as I was. I had never sewn a collar before, I can't say I for sure knew what a placket was, and I hadn't set in a sleeve in probably seven years. But I got through it all, and so can you! If I only check one official garment off my Summer of Basics list this year, I'll be glad it is this one. 

So what's next? I had planned on a Kalle (tunic length) in a rayon from my stash, but I just ordered some chambray cotton that might better fit the bill. Ambitiously, a Tamarack Jacket was third on the list, but I'm having serious doubts about finishing that one before the end of August. The Wiksten Kimono Jacket is a good back-up, with a pretty olive green silk noil on its way to me in the mail. Not to mention my knitting WIPs, the Maritime Shorts I cut out over a month ago, and the rest of my sewing patterns on the back burner; my handmade wardrobe has a lot of room to grow.

Web Shop Live!

 A very meta image

A very meta image

You may or may not have noticed that I launched my very own web shop today, right here on this very website. It was time for me to move off of Etsy and consolidate my work, so you won't me there as of this morning. Instead, I'm excited to bring everything home, and expand my offerings back to where I started: selling my fiber art and fine textiles. 

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I originally moved away from selling textiles because it felt so hard and sometimes discouraging trying to monetize something that I love with all of my heart. It became decidedly not-fun and it was frustrating to put in the immense work of prepping work for sale when I wasn't necessarily meeting an imaginary quota of financial success. 

But, I love my work, and I love sharing my work, and I have so many things that I've been making and more that I want to make, and art doesn't exist in a vacuum. At least, I don't think that I want mine to. At least, I want to be able to stay in my own lane, and focus on my own vision, and have all of that self love and compassion when it comes to making, but I still want to be vulnerable to you. And I've been preaching this idea that your measure of success can be your own, and doesn't have to conform to anyone else's definition, and if I can just find balance and happiness in my work than that is my success. Then I can be practicing what I preach. 

It's a difficult thing, to make art without expectations of results. It's a challenge to put aside ego and to revel in the joy of making your own small city when people are out there building empires. 

I will update my shop when I can. I am on no deadline or schedule. This is what I have to offer. I thank you with all of my heart for taking the time to visit me here in this space.

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To Squam And Back

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Twice each year, in June and September, the Squam Art Workshops take over the lakeside Rockywold Deephaven Camps in Holderness, NH. Founded in 2008 through the vision of Elizabeth Duvivier and now run by Meg Fussell, the biannual gathering boasts workshops taught by leaders in the fiber art and craft worlds, yoga classes, multi-use work spaces, and concludes with an exciting (read: packed, and a little sweaty) art fair featuring everyone's favorite indie vendors of the yarn and fabric varieties. 

 my squam art fair haul

my squam art fair haul

I first heard about Squam (named for the sparkling lake that still requires a bit of bravery to plunge into in early June, which I obviously was powerless to resist) a little more than a year ago through various channels on Instagram. Makers I admired from afar were teachers and attendees alike, and all came home with glowing reviews of the transformative experience. 

 haystack, 2011. not me, because i took this photo, but i definitely stood there too!

haystack, 2011. not me, because i took this photo, but i definitely stood there too!

It's been a whole seven years since I attended Haystack Mountain School of Crafts immediately after graduation with BFA in hand, anxious and uncertain and searching. Haystack was an essential part of my transition from student to working artist; I had the opportunity to work with  and learn from established professionals, graduate students, and lifelong hobbyists on a literal island of a maker's paradise. Now, approaching 30 (excuse me, what?), and somehow still similarly anxious, uncertain, and searching, I felt overdue for some cleverly veiled professional development. 

Creative growth masked as vacation, I was all in. My husband and I made a road trip out of getting me to NH, camping in Massachusetts one night and staying in a dog-friendly hotel in Concord the next, where Lottie had a bed to herself and was in a much improved mood compared to sharing my pillow in the tent.  On the way, we ate sandwiches on the porches of small town general stores and I had the opportunity to tour the spinning mill at Harrisville Designs. Pro tip: the women I encountered who worked at Harrisville were absolutely delightful humans and you should totally pay them a visit. 

 the mill

the mill

Day one at Squam is an easy-going meet and greet. I registered in the early afternoon, filling the official tote bag with freebies from generous sponsors- like a gorgeous skein of silk and wool yarn from Harrisville Designs and a sewing pattern that I had totally been coveting from Fancy Tiger Crafts. Yoga at 4- I made (and kept) a commitment to attend the offered yoga classes each day, which were gentle, restorative and perfect after a day of crafting- followed by dinner and the so-called Opening Ceremony.

 my finished hat

my finished hat

You have the opportunity to pick two classes to attend during your stay at Squam for days two and three (they try to honor you first and second choices, which is not always possible), and I landed myself in a cable class with Internet Knitting Hero Karen Templer of Fringe Association and Fringe Supply Co. as well as a paper/fabric cutting workshop with stitcher extraordinaire Tierney Barden.  Karen's class was a good example of taking a class for the teacher and the enjoyment of the activity; I'm already a competent enough knitter (but as I told my class, there are always things that you don't even know that you don't know), but I did pick up a few tips sitting in a circle by the fire, looking out at the lake, constructing an entire hat; i.e. not a bad way to spend a day. With Tierney's class, I aimed to challenge myself with a technique that was unfamiliar to me, but still related to my practice as an illustrator and fiber artist. I took to her methods like a fish to water, and will be forever grateful for Tierney's generosity as a teacher. 

 in process: paper-cuts transform into magical fabric compositions

in process: paper-cuts transform into magical fabric compositions

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I filled the rest of my time attempting to work on my crazy self; I got up early and drew tarot cards on the dock, wrote, sketched, swam, and practiced being still in the twilight.  I did not cure myself of my social anxiety, but I did manage to show generosity towards myself for the time I needed to spend alone, away from the clicking of knitting needles and chatter. 

I attended a panel discussion featuring three small business owners. I did not attend the Journey Dance class. I wrote the following affirmation in my Saturday yoga/self-love workshop: "May I practice forgiveness and compassion for where I am on my own path."

 my cabin was also very patriotic

my cabin was also very patriotic

I can see why so many folks, mostly women, return to Squam again and again, and I'm so happy that I went. So thank you, Squam, for giving me a much needed break, a place to come back to if I find myself in need, an experience which I let wash over me, embrace me, and return me to my studio, ready to work once more. 

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Special P.S. Lest you think I had all the fun once Bryan and Lottie dropped me off at camp, know that they hiked a few mountains and went kayaking in my absence, so, you know. A good time was had by all. 

Weaving Rainbows

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I've been sitting on a healthy stash of hand spun wool for a few months now, so it was time to dress the loom with a sturdy cotton warp to match. I typically work with yarns around 24 epi in my warp, but for a more balanced weave I went with a 12 epi cotton carpet warp. Why cotton instead of wool with an all wool weft? This may be leftover suspicion from my student days, but I don't always trust wool in a warp. Wool is very toothy and easily felts itself, and I've seen too many projects fall victim to broken threads and sheds that won't easily open because the wool is sticking together too much. Because I like to avoid conflict, I find that a cotton warp provides a strong foundation to let my hand spun yarn really take center stage in a weaving.

Much of the yarn used on this project was spun with the intention to weave. It was a first step in thinking more critically about my spinning process, thinking about composition and color variation right from the get-go. Interesting yarn makes for interesting woven compositions, with or without elements of tapestry or fancy cloth structures.

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Whereas I'm particularly fond of plain weave when working with my hand spun yarn, I had a student recently use a vertical herringbone and I found myself wanting to do the same.

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It's a structure that translates to a subtle texture when viewed from a distance, but is more of an optical delight up close.

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I was left with enough warp for this pillow project. I'd been itching to weave a pillow cover with handwoven material, and I think it came out wonderfully. Backed with a super soft Robert Kaufman flannel, it's pretty from all angles.  

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Lecture @ MICA

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I'm happy to announce that next Monday, February 12, I will be delivering a lunchtime lecture hosted by the MICA MFA in Illustration Practice program. I will be talking about the development of my studio practice as an interdisciplinary artist in illustration and textiles. This talk is free and open to the public.

Where: Lazarus Graduate Center Auditorium

When: 12:15-1pm

Log Cabin Finale

At least for now! I had a lot of fun working on this project; I always enjoy participating in knit-a-longs (KALs) on Instagram and seeing the wide variety of work that gets produced from a single prompt. There's still plenty of time to join the  #fringeandfriendslogalong but I'm glad the execution of my plan resulted in a quick and satisfying knit that I'm happy to have in my home. 

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For more on my log cabin knitting: Here and here

Creative Planning the Bullet Journal Way

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Ever since the new year when I shared some of my bullet journal pages on Instagram, I've been getting a lot of questions about my journaling practice: the what, the how, and especially the why. Since I don't have any major project updates to share this week, I thought I would take this opportunity to write a little bit about how I use my bullet journal for creative planning and project tracking. 

Instead of giving you a primer on exactly what a bullet journal is, I'll tell you that a good place to start if you're curious about bullet journals is bulletjournal.com. Which is exactly what I did when my interest was first piqued. The internet is full of other blog posts just like this one from individuals who share how they've adapted bullet journaling for their personal use, and there is a thriving bullet journal community on Instagram so you can scroll those hashtags to your heart's content. Case in point, this recent post from The Office Goth (give it a read, will you? We use the same notebook!).

Do a little bit of research, and your biggest takeaway will be that no two bullet journals are the same. 

I started keeping a journal because I am truly an analog girl at heart. I get mad at my Mac daily, still have no idea how to navigate my Google calendar, and even though I consider myself a pretty adept typist, clicking out lists and reminders on my phone remains no match for my prowess with pen and paper. I'm a visual, hands-on learner, and turns out the same is true for my style of record-keeping.

Other reasons I chose bullet journaling: 

  • I love having a daily record, even if I only manage to write down one thing per day. It can become a very satisfying 'year in review' because I'm actively compiling all of my accomplishments along the way!
  • It's convenient to have one book I can flip through for all of my dates, lists, ideas, notes, etc. instead of having to think, where is that one napkin I wrote that great story outline on? Pro-tip: transfer napkin notes to your bullet journal to never lose a great idea again!
  • It's easy to chart growth and improvements through habit tracking and goal planning. It's a lifesaver for my creative planning when I have so many ideas bouncing around in my head, and only so many hours in a day I can be awake to get it all done. What was that thing I wanted to make again? 
  • The ritual of keeping a bullet journal helps me to manage my anxiety disorder (unexpected bonus round!).

The point I really want to focus on here is how to maximize your bullet journal experience as a creative, and there are a few things I'll share here regarding how I use this process to manage my time in my studio.

The first is actually part me, part the #makenine movement started by Home Row Fiber Co. on Instagram. I've always kept a running list of projects that I want to make across all media, but #makenine takes this idea one step further by challenging yourself to a set number and sharing those goals within a community. The real excitement for me, and I think for a lot of people, is in choosing projects that teach you something new, challenge you technically, and fill some hole in your practice- whether that be a skill you currently lack or a garment you need in your wardrobe (you'll see a lot of my examples are knitting and sewing based). I apply this thinking to all of my creative planning: how can I grow as an artist?

Here are a few examples of what this looks like in my bullet journal. The image on the left is one of my project planning lists from 2017. On the right is the list for my 2018 Make Nine goals (stickers by the fabulous Nastia Sleptsova). 

The partner to these 'to-make' lists is the 'projects completed list.' You can see below my final list from 2017.  I didn't decide to start a list in 2017 until a few months in, when I then had to retroactively remember everything I had made up until that point; this year, the list is indexed near the start of my journal. Looking back, I can hardly believe that I sewed and knit that many things! It seems impossible. I wonder how this year's list will turn out?

 *Extra tip: Sometimes if I have a page in the middle of my book that I need to refer to over and over again throughout the year and I want to be able to access it quickly, I add a sticker tab to the top of the page (that little peek of yellow up top).

*Extra tip: Sometimes if I have a page in the middle of my book that I need to refer to over and over again throughout the year and I want to be able to access it quickly, I add a sticker tab to the top of the page (that little peek of yellow up top).

 I begin every month with some version of this basic layout: Habit tracking, project planning, and and calendar overview with major events and appointments. I refer to this spread throughout the entire month, and at the end of the month transfer any incomplete projects to the spread for the following month. You'll see that in 2017 I used the lined journal from  Leuchttrum1917 , and this year I've switched to the dotted version; I find that the dotted journal is more flexible in terms of layout possibilities, All Leuchttrum1917 notebooks have a built in Index.

I begin every month with some version of this basic layout: Habit tracking, project planning, and and calendar overview with major events and appointments. I refer to this spread throughout the entire month, and at the end of the month transfer any incomplete projects to the spread for the following month. You'll see that in 2017 I used the lined journal from Leuchttrum1917, and this year I've switched to the dotted version; I find that the dotted journal is more flexible in terms of layout possibilities, All Leuchttrum1917 notebooks have a built in Index.

When it comes to the monthly view of my bullet journal (above), I feel like this is where most  of the work gets done. These lists are not static; though I may start off every month with an idea of what I want to get done, I may decide to bump a project to next month, cancel it forever, or add on something new that I'm suddenly excited about. I like the monthly view, because it's more diverse than my yearly project goals, I can break things down into different categories, and I can be specific (Purl Soho Raglan) or really vague (blackwork embroidery).

Side note, but actually relevant: the reason my yearly project goals are limited to knitting and home sewing is because it's much easier to be specific about wanting to make a Tamarack Jacket based on my wardrobe needs and the sewing skills I want to challenge myself with, than it is to say, plan on making x-number of crochet sculptures. The latter is a much bigger, nebulous, ever-changing concept that I can't really plan for. The personal work either comes, or it doesn't; it sets its own pace, demands its own time. It evolves and shifts gives birth to new work that I can't always account for. It's easier for me to look at that work in a more immediate view, so when I sit down at the beginning of each month I think, okay, what is really making my fingers itch right now?

My daily view is what it is. It's a healthy mix of places to go, things to do around the house, and tasks I want to get done in my studio. Surprisingly this daily record is of the least importance to me, but it does help to keep me on track and hold me accountable. It doesn't always reflect the breadth of the work I got done that day, but at the very least it's a simple acknowledgement that says, hey, I did something.

 My daily entries are always different depending on the day and how much I feel like putting down. This is a pretty standard and straight forward view: mostly appointments, to-do lists that I sat down to write at the beginning of the day, and some select notes. Somedays I add meal planning to the mix or doodles or an #ootd. Some days get stickers (oh boy, do I love stickers) and some are just boring. That's real life.

My daily entries are always different depending on the day and how much I feel like putting down. This is a pretty standard and straight forward view: mostly appointments, to-do lists that I sat down to write at the beginning of the day, and some select notes. Somedays I add meal planning to the mix or doodles or an #ootd. Some days get stickers (oh boy, do I love stickers) and some are just boring. That's real life.

I hope this was helpful. I've enabled comments on this post, so if you have any questions or anything to add, please go ahead! I'd love to hear from you.  

When I was a Painter

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Before I was a fiber artist or an illustrator I was a painter, so I suppose I have always been a painter in my own way.


It was my drawing teacher my freshman year of college who first suggested I might be interested in fiber, and I made the jump in switching my major with hardly a second thought. That hasn't stopped me from seeing most things I make as paintings, namely the things that I weave. 
I'm comparatively new to knitting, having been working studiously as a knitter for a mere two years, and knitting, more than any other skill I have, has always presented itself to me in purely practical terms. One knits to clothe oneself. A skein of yarn becomes a hat.

 
But I cannot deny that the above piece is really a painting masquerading as a knitting swatch. My husband, encountering this small study blocking in my studio immediately remarked, "Oh, that's just like a painting." And a switch went off in my brain. For the entirety of the knitting processes, I had known that this piece was different, that it was meant to live a different life, I just didn't know how, or even what that could fully mean. If a weaving, which is just a piece of cloth that can unravel as easily as any piece of knitting, can hang proudly on the wall as Art with a Capital A, then why not this craft?


So what I've found in my practice over the years is that sometimes you make the art, you drive it, mold it, shape it, breathe it into being. You have directions and a map and you make it so. Conceive, plan, execute.


But sometimes you find that the art shows you what it wants to be. Sometimes your art bosses you around and you have to take the time to hear it out. A lot of the time, these things that are new to us seem so obvious once they reveal themselves, and that's okay. This knitting really being a painting is a simple solution to a belabored question about what my art does and what my art means. Change the title, change the context. But I don't have to do anything differently to make it into a painting. It's already true. What I have to do, what I have to remember, is to not force it into something that isn't true. It's knitting, but it isn't practical knitting. It's a block, but it isn't a pillow. Such a novel idea for this maker!


And what this maybe means for me is a whole new way of working. That's twice over in the span of a week that log cabin knitting has changed my life. Karen Templar, what have you done to me?!

Log Cabin Knitting and a New Way of Thinking

One of my goals for this year goes something along the lines of 'knit less, art more' but only in the sense that I don't want my studio practice (read: personal art) to suffer at the hands of my more practical pursuits. Of course I still want to knit all the things (it's a problem!), continue building my wardrobe through home sewing, and learn new techniques to challenge myself on both those fronts, but everything in balance.

That being said, leave it to me to spend nearly the first full week of 2018 knitting, and in the end finding that I might have struck a happy middle-ground between my Art and what I've up until now seen as just a hobby.

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I'm obviously not a knitwear designer, and yet I've spent the past week painstakingly bent over my Log Cabin knitting making design choices with every turn of my block, stressing every which way over right and wrong moves. But the funny thing I'm realizing now is, why do I spend so much time second-guessing myself when knit comes to purl, so to speak, if I'm comfortable (and confident) to make these kinds of choices every day in my illustration and textile practices?

I've always seen knitting as a relationship between the pattern designer, yarn company, and myself and never thought about there being room for me to call more of the shots. I don't think I trusted myself to know enough about knitting to mold it, to really put it work and extract things unexpected. With Log Cabin I'm finding that not only have I learned a lot about knitting since I started in earnest roughly two years ago, but I can trust myself to intuit moves like never before. I'm seeing now that knitting doesn't have to be a practice that is separate or opposite from my studio work, that it's just another tool in my belt and the possibilities are limitless. 

I've finished one block for the #fringeandfriendslogalong, a pillow front of lopi I picked up in Iceland on our honeymoon in 2014. Purchased before I was even a knitter, but that never stopped my yarn-obsessed butt (you can use any yarn when you're a weaver!). All these years I could never find the right project to do the yarn justice, not with heavy emotional burden I placed on it as a major part of my relationship history. A pillow is a simple thing, easy to adapt for Log Cabin knitting, and will guarantee it both a practical and special place in our home. 

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In terms of design, I'm most pleased with the transition from that cool, icy gray to mottled black, achieved by picking up stitches along the purple block with both black and gray yarns held together, then dropping the black to pick up stitches the rest of the way. In this manner I was able to knit continuously from solid to mottled on one strip, picking the black yarn up for the full width when I was satisfied with the proportions. A simple adaptation, but it felt like a power move. 

I started a second block to play with the ideas I developed in the first, so excited was I with this newfound magic power. I don't know how this will grow, or how it will live when it gets there, but the journey is most of the fun anyways. 

'The Weaving Kind' October/November 2017 Prompt

I've been participating in prompts from The Weaving Kind off and on when the time allows, but this challenge from Rachel Snack (aka @weaverhouseco), who happens to be the Creative Director of Harrisville Designs, really called on me to focus and work on something new. 

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I have always equated weaving and writing in my studio practice. Not only is storytelling integral to my studio, but I work within the correlations between how cloth is woven from line to line and how we construct words and sentences to make meaning. From my earliest days as a textile artist my practice has reflected this relationship in my process and the way I present my work. 

Weaving for me is both a literal representation of the way language is built (line after line, grammatical precision), and a language all its own that speaks through the relationships that form between pattern and color. Yesterday I wrote about a piece (above) that explored this theme by 1. Creating a multi-colored warp with extensive variations in color combinations and 2. Using an overshot pattern, a highly complex draft with a lot of line and movement. The two together create a confused ground, one in which the lines of the pattern are in constant motion, pushing its way to the foreground before disappearing again almost immediately into the background. This is...satisfying to me. It feels rich, it feels like a cloth with depth, with infinite depth. And it also feels flat. All of these things feel true to me. 

This new piece plays off the old, but is more subtle (and looks, I think, more traditional), and draws inspiration from my other favorite textile theme: cloth as history. I find that when pattern disappears into a piece of cloth as a result of color manipulation, it mimics the look of faded and moth eaten textiles found in dusty trunks and museums. I can't help but think about rug and tapestry fragments, especially those on display at the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts in Instanbul, which I visited in 2010 and continues to have a big impact on the way I read the decorative arts. 
And of course, history is a story, so cloth is always a story: a history of where it's from, how it's made, the hands that have wrought it and the hands that have touch it. Everything that touches cloth, happens to cloth is part of the story: stains, the light of a sun millions of miles away causing color to fade, runs and pulls, the unraveling and accidental felting. 
Cloth is my favorite storyteller. 

Not every weaving begins with writing, but it often does. Whether based on poetry, prose, or a meditation on a stream of consciousness, I cannot separate my cloth from a greater story. 
This piece actually began with a poem I started at Attean Lake Lodge in Maine in 2016. I always knew it would grow to be something else, so at the start of this challenge I dug it out, thought about how I've changed and what I wanted to say at this moment on the loom, did a bit of rewriting, and made my warp. The process of weaving is a reflection on those words, but also a breeding ground for further explorations of the how and the why I make this way. 

 Cotton, Bamboo, and Tencel. 2017. Modified Sun, Moon, and Stars overshot from A Handweaver's Pattern Book by Marguerite Porter Davison. 

Cotton, Bamboo, and Tencel. 2017. Modified Sun, Moon, and Stars overshot from A Handweaver's Pattern Book by Marguerite Porter Davison. 

The Poem

on the lake i am a queen
no- a god
on my back

the mountains rising up
at my feed, as if
i summoned them there

strange, the mist,
the stranger loon
crying, calling out
across the lake

i thought i had been
released from gravity i thought
i could still feel the gentle
rolling, rocking, endless
small fingers pressing on me

but i was only drowning
and you were only watching
from the dirt path down
the dock was sinking

you were holding her
by the wrist
and you wouldn't
let go

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