Officially 40

The party started, as many parties do, the night before with the baking and toasting of a boatload of biscotti.  The flavors pictured here are (from left to right): Decadance (hazelnuts, dark chocolate, Grand Marnier), Lemon, Mocha (coffee and dark chocolate), and Ginger-Lime.

A lot-ty biscotti


We packed up the car with yarn, and a warping board and trekked down to Weaving Works.  (A big thanks to the folks at Weaving Works for playing host.  Having a central location, with many warping boards to hand, was a huge help.)

We poured out all the yarn that had come in, and made a big pile on the table. (Note the note book in the upper left.  I’ve kept a snippet of each yarn that came in, as well as any cards or ephemera.)

Big pile o yarn


Marilyn Marilyn was the first to arrive.  She brought yarn spun from the fluff of Tupungato (her llama) and Kitsap (her Angora rabbit.)

I hadn’t had time to wind all the skeins into balls before the party, so the first things folks did was wind balls.  (And with so many wee little skeins, I was glad of the help!)

Marilyn got Kai involved with ball winding.

Kai and Marilyn


Judith taught Eric (my husband) how to use a ball winder.

Judith teaches Eric

Eric winding balls He got pretty good!

(If the fans of his HALO books ever find this post, his macho image will be totally busted.)

More folks showed up, and brought yarn…the pile grew. Purple yarn


We had an abundance of adorable children on the scene.  This is Marielle, the daughter of my friends Elizabeth and Steve.
These adorable little girls sang me “Happy Birthday” and melted my heart.
Elizabeth Here’s Elizabeth, Mari’s mom.  I know her from the writing world, and thought she was pretty game to come to a weaving party.  But turns out, she had a backstrap loom when she was 15.  Weavers, we’re everywhere, who knew?

Julie and Selah got comfortable.  Everyone was having a great time, sharing stories.


Laura Fry showed up in the middle of the party, via fax!  (She faxed a fun poem that we read out loud at the event.  Betcha didn’t know she was a poet, too!)


Bonnie showed us an elegant low-tech way to wind balls.

Winding balls

Actually, a lot of tips and tricks were shared throughout the day.  Weavers, because of the bulkiness of our gear, rarely get together and weave.  Which is a darn shame, because everyone’s got little refinements they’ve come up with and there’s so much we could learn from each other!


We did get all the yarn wound up, and then started to warp.  The more experienced weavers in the room had some serious reservations about mixing so many fibers together (including cotton and wool, with their different stretchiness.)  And they are entirely correct.  This project is varsity-level weaving, and may require much in the way of MacGyverisms.  So, like turning 40, this warp will be an adventure.  And I’ve got some ideas/strategies that I hope will help.


And of course, before the party ends, there must be cake!


Next post, pictures of some richly varied and colorful warp chains, and a discussion about what makes a good warp yarn.

Madrona 2010

Madrona; let me explain.
There is too much; let me sum up….
(with apologies to William Goldman.)

Madrona is a vibrant jewel of a fiber event.  It’s held every year in Tacoma.  It’s not a large event (which adds to its charm) and yet draws some of the most amazing instructors in from around the world.

And they let me in the door, too.

I’ve been to Madrona several times over the years, and this was the best one yet.  Each year, the students get smarter and more talented, the vendors bring in more irresistible fiber tools and supplies, the talks get better, heck, even just hanging out on the atrium and chatting with folks gets better.  I don’t know how Suzanne does it.  It’s simply magic.

The first day of Madrona, I taught an all-day class on beginning rigid-heddle weaving.  I love this class: people come in knowing nothing about weaving, and then their eyes light up when they pull that first scarf off the loom—completed in a single day.  This class got warped up a whole hour ahead of schedule, and I practically had to beat them away from the looms to go to lunch.

In this class, I have students warp with a skein of painted warp, and then weave it off with a solid-colored weft to avoid streaking and plaids.  But I also love it when people ignore my advice and get great results.  Here, the short color repeats in the yarn kept the design from being streaky.

Plaid scarf

Note also, that the warp yarn coordinates with what the weaver is wearing.  That happens all the time in weaving classes.  It happened to a spooky degree in this one.  It was as if I’d dyed the yarn to match the student’s wardrobes.

A bunch of happy new weavers!

New weavers


Another fun thing about this class is that I paint the warp yarns in pairs, so when students pick different weft yarns (and we make choosing the weft a color-exploration exercise) you can see how the interplay of colors between warp and weft has a dramatic effect on the finished cloth.  It’s part of the magic of weaving.

Same warp

That night was the instructor’s dinner.  I ended up sitting at a table with Stephanie Bryant (of Handknit Heroes), Nicolette (the owner of StitchCraft), Anita Luvera Mayer (who turned our table into the lemon-creme-brulee table—always sit with Anita if you have the option), Charlene Schurch (who wrote the epic reference, Sensational Knitted Socks ), and another woman who’s name I am totally blanking on (I am about to turn 40, can I start claiming “middle-aged moments”?)

I’d never met Stephanie or Nicolette before, and usually that’s a recipe for awkward (I’m shy with new people), but they were both so interesting and lively, that we got on like a house on fire and managed to hang out a bit at the rest of the convention despite our various busy schedules.

There was also a substantially pregnant Jacey Boggs, who was extremely photogenic, but I didn’t get a picture of because I was too much in awe of her fabulousness that I forgot I had a camera.  (I also resisted the urge to rub her belly and talk in a high-sing-song voice to the wee one inside.  I’m pretty darn proud of my restraint.)

The second day was woven shibori using a the rigid-heddle loom.  In this class, you weave in a supplemental weft, use it to cinch up the fabric, dye the fabric, and then open it up to reveal lovely areas of resist.  Shibori is a rather nerve-wracking class to teach, as

  1. The dye pot gods have a sense of humor, and you never know what you’ll get.  There is always the chance that students will spend all day meticulously weaving in patterns, and hurting their hands pulling knots tight only to end up with…a solid black scarf.  (I had visions of being pilloried and pelted with balls of yarn in the atrium by outraged students.)
  2. Suzanne (the event coordinator) was a bit concerned (and rightly so) when I told her that I’d be dying with supersaturated black in the hotel’s conference room: the newly renovated, brand-new paint and carpeting, conference room.  Since dyeing outside wasn’t possible, I did my best to approximate clean-room procedures using plastic drop cloths, 5-gallon buckets, and paper towels.

Happily, all my paranoia (and much plastic) paid off and the dye remained contained.  (Despite the fact that one of the buckets had a crack in the bottom.  We will not speak of the paper towels that gave their lives so that Madrona might return to the Murano hotel once again.)

And the results were stunning, totally worth all the paranoia and plastic.

Ideally, you should wait until the shibori is completely dry before cutting out the supplemental weft.  It’s gentler on the yarn.  Most students, like Lauri, couldn’t wait (I wouldn’t have been able to, either.)

Cutting the ties

Nancy, the weaver below, was in my Beginning Weaving class on Thursday and asked what she should warp the loom with for the Shibori class.  I recommended handpainted sock yarn in bright colors, so we could have a contrast to the more traditional dark-light patterning.  Didn’t it turn out stunning?  When she showed the final result to me, I was literally speechless for a few seconds.

Orange Shibori and Tina Newton
(Note: When Tina Newton of Blue Moon Fiber Arts stops to admire your work, you know you’ve done well.)


Benita (below) is a surgeon, and as such had no problem tying the weaver’s knots (aka: surgeon’s knots) to cinch up the shibori.  The diamond patterning was free-form pickup and is just lovely.  Below that are variations on the basic checkerboard patterning.

Surgeon's knots?  No problem!


That evening, I ran away from the dye pot long enough to set up my samples for the instructor’s gallery.  This is the first year I actually remembered to bring stuff for the gallery, hence the huge smile on my face.  (Yes, my hair and clothes look like I’d been hovering over a hot dye-pot for hours, because, well, I had.)

Instructor's Gallery

From left to right: dishtowel fabrics; shibori samples; the blue/purple is an 8-shaft advancing twill woven by Madrona attendees at last year’s demo, the purple/green is a fabric designed by Bonnie Inouye, I wove 5-1/2 yards of it for shirt fabric; the maroon on the far right is a silk boucle I wove at Laura Fry’s studio last summer.


Other highlights: Emma wove Jana Trent’s Triangle or Rectangle shawl. I don’t often see WeaveZine projects “in the wild” so it was a thrill.  And the shawl was so soft and luscious that I started mentally rummaging through my stash for Silky Wool and pondering  where my frame loom might be…


(Note the judicious use of plastic protecting the dyepot in the background…)


All day Saturday I ran a weaving demo in the atrium.  I set things up so people could weave 4-shaft twill coasters and then take them home to hem.  There were so many people who sat down, wove their coaster and then declared: “OMG!  I want—need to get a loom!”  It was a huge contrast to last year when I had to beg people to try out weaving.  This year there was a constant waiting list for the loom.

Weaving Demo

I ran the demo non-stop from 9:30am-5:00pm at which point my brain had melted, so I went…shopping!

The Madrona vendor hall is a dangerous place.  A truly smart person will give their credit cards to their friends to hold before venturing inside.

I entered, fully intending not to purchase anything, but a few things did call out to me.

This is a tussah-cashmere blend in my new favorite color.  This purchase isn’t my fault.  I was tempted into this by Lauri.  She bought it, and began spinning it at my table during the demo.  My favorite spinning fiber, in my new favorite color…right there…taunting me.  She even offered to watch my loom while I shopped…  I was a goner.



Lazy kate This is a lazy Kate that I just fell in love with.  I love that it folds up, has tensioning and best of all… the rods that hold the bobbins screw into place so they don’t fall out during plying!  It’s also cedar and smells great.  But the real reason I had to have it?  The gorgeous burling in the lower right corner.  I’m a sucker for pretty wood.
Goodies from Harmony Skin Care!  Lew, the chemist/owner is the grandson of the guy who invented Vitalis Hair Creme, and is a heckuva a fun guy to hang out with.  His hand lotion soaks right in, so it doesn’t get on your yarn while knitting or weaving, and his lip balms are the best I’ve found (my Irish skin cracks if you look at it funny.)

My very first Madrona I bought his lotion in the Plumeria scent, and every time I smell that scent, it takes my right back there in my memory, and that’s a very happy thing.  Good guy, good products.

Harmony Skin Care products
Thai reeled silk Habu got me.  They sell exquisite yarns (like the reeled Thai silk below) in teensy packages (so you can afford it.)  I have no idea what kind of project this yarn will be used in, but it told me to take it home and find out.
Highlighter tape.  Much stickier and better than post-it notes for marking your place when threading or treadling a loom. Highlighter tape



And there you have it, a summary view of a wild and wonderful weekend of weaving!

There was more, so much more to tell! (Like the fact that the Today Show was wandering around filming.)  But this post has already become epic long.  A fun, fun time.


A big thanks to folks who’ve sent in yarn for the Birthday Blanket Project.  The yarns are as interesting and diverse as the people who provided them, and I’m enjoying imagining how the finished blanket will turn out.

I had so much fun looking at all the different yarns that I created an online photo gallery.  So if you’re curious about what’s going into this project, you can browse through the yarns as well.  If you click on the thumbnail images, you’ll get a bigger view of the yarn with more information about it and the story behind it.

I’ll keep updating this as new yarn comes in, so that it can serve as a record of all the yarn that went into the blanket.

Setting up the yarn gallery was fun.  I imagine this must be how the folks at Spin-Off feel each issue when readers send in their sample skeins.

A lot of yarn has come in, but there’s still plenty of room on the warp.  So if you’ve been thinking about sending in the 40 yards of yarn that represents you, it’d still be very welcome.

The launch party is Sunday, Feb 21st, at Weaving Works in Seattle.  I’ll provide cake and refreshments and we’ll be winding warps for the blanket.  (Though if you just want to drop in and say hey, that’s fine, too.  I won’t put you to work unless you want to.)