Here in my spot of Maine a switch has been pulled. Summer tomato salads have given way to a pot of simmering lamb stew(with tomatoes). Morning strolls to the garden are no longer barefeet and tank tops, but oversized sweaters and thick slippers. Rest assured, no matter the season, there is always a steaming cup of coffee involved. Almost to my horror at this point–not really, but really—the tomatoes keep coming, despite the blighted state of their affairs. I’ve frozen, canned, jammed, and sauced them in every way I can think of. The summer squashes are rife with powdery mildew even though we’ve had only scant rain and the garden well has run dry. Even still, they keep fruiting. There’s a basket of garlic in my studio that rivals my baskets of wools. There’s a tsunami of hot peppers coming in that my husband dutifully strings to dry, even though he is a little scared of them. But my studio feels festive and decorated for celebration with vegetal garlands hanging from my display rails along with drying herbs, my finished rugs and freshly dyed skeins of wool.
My garden always gives me solace. Maybe more so this year than usual, but in equal measure to my work—which has taken wild turns into unexpected territories. There is more to muse over on that topic, but for the moment I’m going to enjoy my hooking and the burbling of stew on the stove.
I hope you are all well in these tumultuous times. Not only are my thoughts with you, so are my actions.
Like many of you, mask making has become a significant part of my daily tasks. When I finished yesterday’s allotment, I realized a low grade fury had been building as I worked over my sewing machine. I grabbed discolored and worn antique flannel and a scrap of quilting cotton from the late 1800s and made my Vote mask. Born of scraps and anger.
Stay safe. Be well.
I first came across peg looms at one fiber festival or another a few years back and was immediately enthralled. What I was seeing were gorgeous alpaca rugs and throws. My immediate thought, however, was that I might try my hand at peg loom rag rugs. The idea simmered for a time. And then a time too long.
I’m a tremendous fan of recycling and reusing. Much of my work involves the repurposing of old wools, cashmere sweaters, vintage and antique cloth and other materials. While my love affair with rug hooking is unequivocal, I’m always curious about other techniques, processes, and learning opportunities. New ways to use materials I may have collected, but aren’t necessarily my go to’s—cottons for example, are a constant tease. Weaving would seem an obvious destination for a girl with my fiber proclivities, but two things held me back: the space requirements of a number of styles of looms and the limitations of a shoulder injury. Here I circle back to my introduction to a peg loom and the possibility of it fulfilling my dream of creating rag rugs.
Unlike most looms I’d known, a peg loom is compact and requires very little space, is portable, and could work with the stash I already have. It is simply comprised of a wooden block base drilled to accept pegs. Each peg, in turn, has a hole drilled through the bottom diameter to accept your warp threads or yarns. That’s it. You can use as many or as few of the pegs as you like for a piece. The more you use, the wider your weaving will be. The length of your warp threads determines how long your weaving can go. When I divulged my plans to my hubby, thinking I could give this a go with a scrap of 2 x 4 and some dowels, he surprised me with a beautiful, well thought out finished maple piece. The pressure was on!
I had a few stops and starts with peg loom weaving. And I’m going to insert here a big thank you to Anne at Cape Newagen Alpaca Farm for the confidence building time she spent with me! The finished weave is a bit different than the more traditional under/over method. Fabric created on peg loom creates a weave that leaves only the weft visible. Rather than beating the weft into place as you go, the warp is cinched up at the end to create the density of the fabric.
My first few attempts found me experimenting with core spun alpaca, vintage flannel yardage, and recycled saris. The latter two were torn into strips that I joined as I went. I definitely have been bitten by the bug now and have more plans. I want to experiment with chunky warps and, alternatively, more delicate wefts. Visions of denim and antique silks are a tease. The possibilities are enticing. Rag rugs have always appealed to me, but different materials could make wonderful table runners or placements, window shades or pillows.
My recent design rabbit hole started with a desire to create a historic looking mural for our home. Somewhere in my search for folk art painting techniques I stumbled upon one Mr. Rufus Porter and the rug hooker in me took over. His motifs struck a chord. While I’ve yet to paint anything, I’ve been enjoying designing rugs inspired by his work. This little footstool is the first of many to come.
I had a wonky little scrap of antique linen, so I made a peculiar little nautical needle book.
Stitching has become calming and meditative for me. I seem to be turning to it more and more.
I worry that over time my stitching will become too practices and regular, when what I love is the Wabi Sabi, Come as it May process.
It’s a new year, and I’m trying new things. Boro style textiles have captured my imagination, and sashiko stitching can easily be embraced by those of us who are daunted by the skill and precision of traditional American dainty little quilting stitches. I’ve received such a positive reaction to my first piece and have gotten many questions, so I’m just going to lay out my process here. And remember, I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m just doing, and this was my first piece. I have graduated to my second, however, for whatever grandeur that might lend to my resume.
We are renovating an old farmhouse. There is a lot of very cool stuff ending up in the dumpster. So, yeah. I’m the crazy lady dumpster diving in her own dumpster to salvage cool things. I also needed a way to display a new yarn I’m designing with AND I was home alone with the workshop all to myself. So I made a Primitive Trencher. This is the first of several that ended up happening…
The next Bee in the Barn at Todd Farm will be a very special gathering. Sewing bees have a long history of community gatherings for a common cause and in that spirit our next bee on March 19th will also serve as a collection site for handcrafting materials, tools, and supplies to donate to Syrian refugees.