CNCH 2012 Goodness

Needle ThreaderThis past weekend I traveled down to Oakland to teach at the Conference of Northern California Handweavers. It was a fun time. I hadn’t been immersed in the fiber world in a while and it was good to be back.

I was there to teach two classes, “Beginning Rigid Heddle Weaving” and “e-Textiles”.

It’s always a blast teaching beginning weaving, because there’s this “ah-ha!” moment that happens when people get how weaving works, and as one student put it, “I can’t believe I finished an entire scarf in a whole day!”  (I’m guessing she was a knitter.) There were a few hiccups during the class, like the moment I realized we didn’t have warping pegs for everyone–we got creative and threw chairs on top of tables–I wish I’d taken a picture of that. There were a few cantankerous looms, but we got them sorted.

I skipped what I heard was a great Saturday night presentation to finish prepping for the eTextile class the next day.  Work and life had been extra busy leading up to the conference, so there were things I needed to get done.  Darn my work ethic!  I would have like to see Peggy Osterkamp talk, she’s one of my fiber gurus; I’ve learned a tremendous amount from her books and had the honor of meeting her person, too.

The eTextile class the next day was a guilty pleasure for me.  It’s hard to get 12 people together in a room who like blinky-glowy things as much as I do, so it always tickles me when I teach an eTextile class and get to spend a whole day with such folks. Class went well, the extra prep time I put in meant more Arduino Lilypad samples and demos than I’d had in previous classes.  The students whipped through the sampler, got into programming in a big way, and we had extra time at the end to go into a tour of some of the great eTextile projects and websites.

I had so much fun, that I’m currently putting together a September weekend workshop in which students will learn eTextiles basics and then go on to modify a garment to create a work of wearable electronic art.  If you’re interested in this or future eTextile workshops, you can sign up to receive eTextile workshop information.

Another highlight of the conference was getting to spend time with the other instructors. My roommate was the lovely and effervescent Jacey Boggs. As you know if you’ve taken a class from her or watched her video, she’s fun and lively.  She’s also very, very smart.  I see her working as force for good in the fiber world for a long time to come. I wish I hadn’t had to be so heads-down prepping for the eTextiles class, there were so many interesting things we could have talked about.

I was good in the vendor hall. Falling down only a couple of times in front of the Just Our Yarn booth (Hand-painted 140/2 silk!) and Lunatic Fringe (Silk tram!  On vintage bakelite bobbins!). I steeled myself against the many charms of the Gilmore booth’s  Mini Wave loom. It’s so cute!  And I actually do have a legitimate need to weave shoelaces that are 110 inches or longer now. But it wouldn’t have fit in my suitcase (I took a card, one may yet follow me home.)

Meals with other instructors is one of the great things about teaching at conferences.  There’s so much to share, and other teachers are so inspiring. This conference I got to meet Sara Lamb and Stephanie Gaustad for the first time, and chat a bit with Judith MacKenzie and John Mullarkey.  On the way back from the conference I flew out with basketry teacher Judy Zugish, who was a delightful companion as we waited in the airport.

My only regret about CNCH is that I wish I’d taken more pictures.  I tend to get so focused on making sure the classes run well and students have a good time, that I forget to take pictures.  The only took two: a clever hand-made needle threader a student brought to the eTextile class (I am so going to make myself some of these for class) and Jacey Boggs’ spinning wheel after I signed it (there’s a longer story that’s hers to tell, but the gist is she’s having students sign her wheel and as a past student I qualified–I’m in green, about 7 o’clock.)

Signing Jacey's Wheel

Surprise Birthday Flash Mob

This Sunday, an unusual thing happened. My friend Marilyn stopped by with a parcel. That wasn’t too unexpected, so I invited her in for a cup of tea. I was giving her a tour of my house (aka: the house I went back to work to afford), when I noticed my friend Astrid outside, holding another parcel. I started to get suspicious. And then Selah and baby Morgan showed up. Then Laura and Joe, and Judith.  Yep.  That’s right.  It was a surprise birthday flash mob.

Surprise Party Flash Mob


Selah, the ring leader, in cahoots with my husband, had set the whole thing up. I was completely snookered.  In retrospect, there were clues, and it was delicious fun to think back and see the scaffolding of the plan going up.  I always, always, had wanted a surprise birthday party.  So it was fun and thrilling.

And then they attacked me with henna.  Yep, you haven’t lived until you’ve had Astrid come at you with a syringe full of dye and a gleam in her eye.

Astrid's Gleam

People drew designs on me both fun and meaningful. Selah, who’s birth I’d attended as a labor partner/doula, drew a caduceus. Judith drew lightning bolts to help me skate faster. Kai drew a Mayan calendar. Marilyn drew plants to help my garden thrive. Astrid filled in my skating number and drew a sine wave. Laura drew a spider for my spinning. And Eric filled in the back of my neck with a set of beautiful spirals.

Eric's Spirals


The hardest part was having to sit still for hours while the henna dried. I’m not a sit-still kinda gal.

Painted Lady


But it fit in nicely with my New Year’s resolution: be happy doing less. For the past two decades, I’ve cranked my main spring tighter and tighter each year to get more work out of me, both professionally and on personal projects. This year I’m working on building in emptiness and down time into my schedule. To be a human being, instead of a human doing.

What did the people at work say about my arms being covered in henna tattoos? Absolutely nothing. I think after spending a year with me, nothing I do surprises them anymore. That or Amazon is just an incredibly cool place to work for.


Madrona 2012: A Very Fine Birthday

Last year, my birthday sucked. I was saying a final goodbye to my dreams of making a living in the fiber arts. It was poignant, because I spent the whole weekend teaching at Madrona, a wonderful fiber conference, surrounded by everything I was giving up. The day after Madrona, I would start full-time work again. A daunting prospect after being self-employed for ten years. My husband was sick and couldn’t be with me. I felt like an utter failure and spent the evening sobbing in my hotel room.

This year was the antidote to last year. I taught at Madrona again, with a room full of lovely women who shared my passion for things that glow and blink. It was a mellow and peaceful class. They gave me permission to blog about derby and non-weaving things. I don’t have to words to explain why that was important (or rather, I do, but it would take about 10,000 of them) but it was huge to me. I’m an eclectic, shy, multi-faceted person, and it’s hard for folks like me to feel 100% accepted, and in that moment, I did.

I had lunch with a friend and mentor, and that was a wonderful treat.

Class continued. We wove. Things lit up. We turned off the lights and there were moments of illuminated beauty. I had a great time, and I hope they did as well.

Eric and Kai came down that evening and injected some family pack bonding into the evening. We ate Mexican food, tussled on the bed, made bad jokes, and I fell exhausted into bed and slept well.

The next day, my actual birthday, I spent taking a class with my favorite tapestry weaver in the whole wide world: Sarah Swett. (I can say this only because I consider Mary Zicafoose a rug weaver.) Sarah combines both being a hoot-and-a-holler as a person with amazing technical skill that takes my breath away. She doesn’t teach often and I consider myself lucky to have gotten into her class.

We wove tapestry bags. Tapestry is something that makes my brain hurt. I’d taken a class with James Koehler, and was blown away by his mastery and technique. But his brain worked very differently than mine, and as soon as I stepped away from his class, his teaching fell right out of my head. Sarah’s teaching settled into my brain like a faithful dog and curled right around my cerebellum. I came away from the class with an enthusiasm for tapestry and a belief that I might actually be able to weave a tapestry I was happy with one day.


Oh, and Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (aka: the yarn harlot) is considering taking up an affair with a bad-boy loom. A loom with its brake smack in the center of the warp. With a tricky warp tensioning system that is just waiting to unspool her warp all over the floor. A handsome fellow, dark and mellowed with age, something rare and fine, but temperamental… I worry for her weaving adventures on it. Though I suspect a swat team of Canadian weavers is likely to descend on her if things get out of hand.

Several people asked questions about my unfinished projects, some asked kindly, some more pointedly. Here are the answers, in case you’re wondering, too.

What about WeaveCast? Will there be more?
I don’t know. I hope so. Between more-than-full-time work, family, and doing the things that keep me happy and sane, I haven’t found the time to edit audio. I’ve got several episodes recorded that I’d like to produce, but I don’t know when I’ll get to them. There’s another fibery concern that’s considering doing a weaving podcast–a group that’ll likely do a much better job than I ever did–so even if I don’t get around to it, you still have hope.

What’s the status of the birthday blanket?
The first 13-yard warp is woven. The second 13-yard warp is lying on the floor of my studio on lease sticks, ready to go through the raddle. I really, really, wanted to get it done in time for Madrona 2012, but two other time-critical projects got in the way. One was my producing Linda Ligon’s memoir This is How I Go When I Go Like This as an audiobook, the other is still under wraps. I feel mortified that the birthday blanket isn’t done yet, and I promise that it will be done before I am. My other worry is, now that I have a smaller presence in the fiber world, how will I get the word out when it’s done?

I came away from Madrona 2012 feeling like the fiber arts world was welcoming me back. It won’t be what it was, it’s scaled back from when I was trying to make a living publishing weaving content. But you know, the things that drew me into the fiber arts are still there: the love of making beautiful fabrics, the friendly people, the meditative work.

A lot has happened in the past year: I’ve gotten a new career. I watched my friend Selah birth her son. I took up roller derby and played in a game in front of 300+ spectators. A long-time chronic health issue that has plagued me my whole life was diagnosed and addressed. I’ve let go of a lot of expectations.

For the first time in my life, I don’t know what I’m working towards. I don’t have a master plan. It’s strange to be like this, but also peaceful.

Derby Pics

My friend Bobbie Climer took some photos of me in my roller derby gear.

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Linux Class

Linux ClassroomI signed up for a Linux Administration certification program, because I thought it would be fun, and because Amazon Web Services is a Linux house, which is geek for “we use a lot of Linux around the place.”

So I walk into the classroom and I was the only girl…by a lot.  That’s really the only way I can explain it.  Not only were the other 25 people in the room male, but they were all the same kind of male. Geek alpha male, Linux flavored. Continue reading

Gone Batts

Multicolored BattsOne of the things I love about going to a gathering of fiber enthusiasts is the sharing and inspiration that goes on. For example, I recently went to an Eastside Spinners meeting (held at Starbucks, because this is the Pacific Northwest) where a woman pulled out a gorgeous multcolored batt, filled with sparkly bits, recently hand carded so it was as light and fluffy as a cotton candy cloud.

I was instantly hit with an overwhelming wave of jealousy, because I’d been looking for months for exactly that kind of batt, with no joy on Etsy, online retailers, or my local yarn shop.  “Where,” I breathed, “Did you get that?” Continue reading

First Birthday Blanket Warp Done!

End of the WarpIt’s a banner day, the first of two warps for the Birthday Blanket Project are done!  Eric and Kai were away for most of the week, and I took the opportunity to weave on my big noisy AVL (the flyshuttle is loud) while they were away.  At first it felt as though the 13-yard warp would go on forever, but at long last it is done!  Huzzah!  Lessons learned include: Continue reading

Sock Summit: Flash Mob

Yesterday I was part of a flash mob. If you’re not famliliar with the concept, its an event where in some public space, seemingly random strangers break into coordinated action or song. It’s  like a musical come to life. This flash mob was put together by Sock Summit folk, who were so organized as to publish video tutorials for the “ode to yarn” choreography. Friday night, my roommates: Astrid Bear, Lisa Grossman (the Sock Tsarina), and Sandi Wiseheart and I crowded around a laptop to practice. Continue reading