What's weavin'

My latest project du jour is a hybrid fabric – part traditional yarns, part recycled neckties. I started off the bolt with a custom portion. I really love the challenge of custom work! “Here are 12 of my husband’s ties – create something!” It’s like a puzzle! What common colors run through each tie or will pull it all together? 

In this case, I decided on a red/blue mix for the warp yarns (yarns running through the loom). They will provide a very cheerful platform for the unique variety of ties – hopefully without looking too patriotic! 

Then once I clear the number of inches needed for the custom bit, I’m off and running with my own portion! I’ve become a bit of a spontaneous weaver, which surprises no one more than me! I’ve gotten in the habit of carefully planning the beginning of a project and when it comes time to weave, letting the wind blow me wherever it pleases! And so far, it has served me really well! 

For my portion of the fabric, I’ve been working with black & gray ties, keeping the colors simple. Then little by little, I am tweaking the weft yarns (yarns in the shuttle) underneath them. I gotta say, it’s coming together well up to this point! There’s still a lot of inches to go and there’s no telling how it will play out! But, I’m happy to share my progress to date! 


(I’m having technical issues with my captions, but the top 3 are the custom portion & the bottom ones are my portion. The string is what I used to measure the correct number of inches and the shuttle image is a reminder of what not to do – that is, overstuff the shuttle!) 

What are you working on this week? 

At last!

You know when you are eating pasta and it seems like no matter how much you eat, there’s still a bowlful left? This project was just like that! But finally, FINALLY it is off the loom! 

So, in light of completing this challenging weaving feat, I thought I would share a few things I learned along the way! 

1. Life & weaving projects don’t always go as planned. This may sound obvious, but weavers are notoriously great planners! So, when the project goes off the rails, we don’t always handle it well! (And when I say “we”, I mean me!) Because this one had a real life of its own, it helped me be more flexible – and creative! 

2. There’s a place for every color – it just depends on the context. I am not a pastel girl. (Honestly, my friends might say that was an understatement.) But while the idea of lavender makes me break out in hives, when the color is next to something stronger (maybe a warm chocolate or a slate gray), it can really work well! For this project, I ended up in a tight spot with the color peach. With the help of a solid blue, the story had a happy ending! (Whew! It was a close call, though…)

3. Weaving or anything creative is good for your head! The process of weaving – that repetitive motion – really encourages my mind to settle and just be. I can do some impressive brainstorming while tossing my boat shuttle back and forth thousands of times! The trick is to keep my thoughts moving in a positive direction because once they spiral somewhere else, they tend to get stuck there. With this project, the timing was perfect considering it is a new year & I am reworking parts of the business! 

I haven’t added up my hours for this project yet, but ultimately every minute was worth it! (I have no doubt that 2 weeks ago I was singing a different tune!) But, each project leads me to something new & how can that be bad? 

What have you learned from a recent project? 

Blue is the answer…

“I’m stuck in the middle of a project!” Haven’t we all said that at some point? Well, that’s been my mantra this week.  And truth be told, I’ve been stalled for a few weeks now but have been politely ignoring it. I don’t know about you, but I have a series of steps I go through whenever a project doesn’t follow my master plan! 

Step 1 – There’s usually pouting like a 6 year old when things originally go off the rails. 

Step 2 – While still pouting & being generally ornery, there is a period of reviewing where I went wrong in the project. This is the shoulda-woulda-coulda stage. 

Step 3 – Pretending it’s not there (which takes skill, since there’s a 36″ floor loom in the way every time I enter the basement)! 

Step 4 – Actually looking at it again with fresh eyes, thinking outside the box, asking “what if”?

Step 5 – Working on a solution – any solution! Giving it my best answer at the time to finish it up. 

Now in the past, it has taken me anywhere from 4 hours to 6 months to get from original pissiness to completed fabric. In this instance, I used the holidays as my excuse to let it all stew. 

But this is the week to wrap it up! Here are a few details so you get the picture. I have a necktie project on the loom where I have simple cotton for the warp yarns (running through the loom) and strips of recycled neckties as the weft (going the other direction). Kind of a rag rug technique, if you will. It takes awhile to prep the ties & I prepped a TON! The project is all oranges & yellows – beautiful! 

Until I get to the end of my plan & I still have probably an entire yard of warp left on the loom! And to make matters worse, I’ve ended with a peachy color! This may not sound like a big deal to you. And in the universe of real problems, it isn’t. But, I don’t have other peach-colored ties to continue with. AND, I kind of seriously dislike the color – just adding insult to injury! 

So here I am. Staring at a project I have to finish before I can do new, fun things. Deciding how to gracefully move from peach (ugh!) to yellow (because those are the color ties I have left). Then, an idea started to form – blue! Blue will be the bridge. 

Now, finally, I have a plan of attack. Weave blue ties intermittently with the peach I have left, gradually work in blue & yellow ties, then only yellow. Whew! It was a close one! It may not be a perfect solution, but it’s good enough to finish it! And most days, that’ll work! 

Thank you for commiserating with me! How do you get yourself out of these situations? I’m always up for suggestions! 

The birth of an idea…

This past week, I’ve been tackling a lovely, colorful custom project using a client’s deceased husband’s neckties! I’m transforming them into fabric that we will then cut into handbags the family can enjoy. I love these types of projects! It is such an honor to be trusted with such personal items – remembrances of someone long gone.

So, while I was working away, my mind took a little trip down memory lane to the very first time I did anything with neckties, or any recycled material for that matter. And here’s my quaint little story!

Once upon a time (I don’t know the year, but I’m sure it was longer ago that I think since time gets away from me so quickly!), I was in a group called the Creativity Continuum. This was a set of ladies who all met once a month at the TLD Design Center in Westmont, IL with the purpose of supporting and stretching ourselves as artists. We did all sorts of fun, crazy activities meant to make you think, challenge you to be brave, and mostly trigger the need to keep creating!

Well, each year, we would put on a small exhibit to show what we have been working on and for a couple of years, we decided to give the exhibit a theme. One of those years, we settled on the theme of “A Woman’s Wardrobe”. Now, there were no other restrictions beyond the theme. You could take that as literally or philosophically as you wanted to. So that very broad topic, combined with the fact that each of us worked in different mediums and possessed very different strengths, always guaranteed a wildly diverse and fascinating collection!

While I was mulling over the theme, I came to the conclusion that I wanted to do a play on stereotypical gender roles. Now, keep in mind that this was LONG before it was commonplace to discuss gender identities at the kitchen table. I was aiming for something much more simplistic than that. So, I settled on the fact that I wanted to create an item that was very feminine, woven with very masculine materials. And when it all came together, I had a pencil skirt constructed using hand-woven fabric made of men’s neckties!

The end result was clunky and stiff and you couldn’t really walk in it (never mind that I couldn’t fit into it now by a long shot even if I wanted to!). But, I remember marveling at how unique the fabric was! Blending all those patterns and colors together gave it a completely different look from anything I could achieve using traditional yarns! And it wasn’t until a few years after that that I connected the dots and started using recycled materials to make fabric for handbags. But, it is so wonderful to look back through my history to ponder the seemingly random, wonderful starting point for an idea I really love!

So, here’s to pencil skirts, the Creativity Continuum, and the family members who gave me their neckties knowing I was going to chop them up into who knows what! Thank you!!!  necktie-pencil-skirtimg_1715

The calm before the storm…

I am currently wedged firmly in between the end of outdoor art fair season and the start of the short, but frantic holiday season. So as you can imagine, it’s quiet… and I’m not exactly sure what to do with that! Every time management book I read talks about how to get the most out of every minute of every day. And while that might be a very productive use of my time, I’ll be honest – I’m having an awesome week just sleeping in! I find it hard to transition from the continuously reactive I-have-an-event-every-weekend mindset to the calmer I-have-no-plans-and-could-actually-begin-a-project version.

So, in the spirit of chilling at home for a couple weeks, I am working on a small bolt of custom fabric. An acquaintance of mine brought me a box of neckties from her late husband and she has asked that I use them to create woven fabric that we will sew into handbags for her family! I love these types of projects, where I’ve been given something personal and then have the challenge of transforming it into something new to be cherished and enjoyed!

And while I could be making an enormous to-do list and vigorously checking things off, I have to admit I’ve been thrilled to spend hours simply cutting up a big pile of ties, prepping them for a project I’ll get into this weekend… probably…

What are your tricks when changing the pace in your life? Thanks for the tips! I’ll have many opportunities to incorporate them for sure!