Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Weaving resolutions

Hello, friends. It is hard to believe that 2013 is almost at an end. While working at the loom this week, I found myself thinking ahead to next year and pondering some of the things I'd like to learn and to do.

But first, here's a photo. I'm working on some bespoke table napkins this week. There is a huck lace border on each end and a lot of tabby weaving (hence the pondering mentioned above):

Mercerized cotton table napkins (10/2 cotton) with huck lace borders

Have any of my weaving friends completed the Handweaver's Guild of America "Certificate of Excellence" program? I'm really thinking about attempting this in 2014. I think that I could learn a lot by having a "weaving syllabus" and would be interested in having my work evaluated. From what I have read so far, it is not a casual undertaking. I became a member of HGA this week (step 1) and will order the course materials soon (step 2). Then we will see. I'll keep ya' posted.

As far as what I'd like to learn how to do in 2014 -- independent of the HGA certification process -- I'm itching to try needle felting and to learn diversified plain weave. I like the idea of adding color and design to my handwoven fabric and learning how to needle felt seems like a fun way to accomplish this. And the diversified plain weave bug has bitten me after reading an old issue of "Handwoven" magazine that featured a few projects using this technique. It looks very interesting.

So these are some "weaving resolutions" for 2014. Of course, it would be lovely to train for another half-marathon and to build a cold frame for the garden and to grow fingerling potatoes and to read a few more Dickens novels. I think I'll concentrate on the needle felting and the potatoes - just for starters.

What are your plans for 2014? Weaving or otherwise? Do tell!
Be well,

Monday, December 9, 2013

Indoor vs. Outdoor Exhibiting

Hello, friends. This past Sunday marked the last of my exhibits for 2013. I am quite new to exhibiting my work "live" (I've sold online for over 5 years), but I've learned a few things this year and thought I would share a few thoughts today.

Indoors vs. Outdoors
I've sold my work in a variety of places. In general, my work has drawn the most attention & has sold well when it is displayed outside. Why has this been? Well, first, I have a big canopy tent when I exhibit outside; my booth space is clearly delineated. Also, I have a big sign/banner that is hung in my tent identifying my business name and tag line, "Handwoven Textiles, Londonderry, New Hampshire."

Me, exhibiting outdoors in August at the Morrison Museum. See the apple trees?

Exhibiting outdoors has some disadvantages: you have to have a sturdy tent and all of the stuff needed to secure it, including tools, and then there is the weather. Wind gusts are terrifying. However, I still like exhibiting outdoors despite these things and believe the benefits & outright fun of it all outweigh the negatives. Plus, I'm sort of an outdoorsy kind of girl and enjoy being outside. I guess I am most "at home" outside vs. a strange, indoor space.

There are several things that I've found to be difficult about exhibiting indoors, but for me the big issues are space and lighting. Space: at most of the indoor events that I've participated in this year, I did not have the amount of space available to me that I paid for (and neither did anyone else, for that matter). A 10' space was an approximation at best. I don't have "indoor walls" to delineate my booth space at this point, so this might be something to consider. I don't have a "Nutfield Weaver" sign that works well for an indoor space. Another something to consider. Lighting is somewhat controllable, provided you have the money to purchase the necessary lights for your display, have a way to utilize them, have access to electricity, and have the means to pay for the electricity fee on top of your entrance fee. And one last thing: just because you exhibit indoors do not assume that you will be comfortable. I exhibited in two different indoors venues this fall and both were extremely cold. Bring enough layers to stay warm. Fingerless gloves were an absolute necessity for me on these occasions.

For 2014, I would like to add a visual aid to my display. A friend of mine, who is a seasoned and successful fiber arts exhibitor, suggested that a short video of the weaving process would be helpful, and I believe that she is absolutely right. A lot of people are new to the idea of handwoven cloth. "No, this is not crochet." "No, this is not knitted." "No, this is not fabric from a store that I hemmed." My loom is housebound; it is an 8 harness Nilus II Leclerc with 10 treadles; it is not feasible to disassemble and take to an event. I'd like to be able to show people how cloth is made, and this might be a practical way to do so.

Do any of my friendly blog readers exhibit their wares? What are your experiences and what lessons have you learned? If you'd like to share one of your pearls of wisdom, please do so in the comments section below!
Be well,
Kate K.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Scarves for gentlemen with Valley Yarns alpaca/silk

Hello, friends. I am getting ready for my last exhibit of this calendar year at LaBelle Winery on Sunday, December 8th. In addition to the usual table runners and fiber jewelry to display at the show, I've included a few new handwoven scarves for gentlemen.

I wanted to use a fiber that was soft, warm, and lightweight. Valley Yarns alpaca/silk blend (80% alpaca and 20% silk) worked out really nicely for my purposes. I sleyed the reed at 20 ends per inch and wove at approximately 24 picks per inch. Shrinkage in the width was minimal. Shrinkage in the length was not much - about 10-12%. I tend to have a very light beat, so if you choose to work with yarn, your results might be different.

Here is a photo of the "really red" alpaca/silk on the loom:

I also wove two tartan scarves using the Barclay Hunting traditional design:

The red is the "really red" used in my first scarf. The blue is Valley Yarn's "navy" and the green is "olive." I really like the contrast of the green with the red in the scarf. 

I was a little bit nervous about how well the yarn would hold up under tension but I was pleased that I did not have one broken warp thread while working on any of the scarves. Hooray! Finishing the cloth was pretty simple - I handwashed in gentle detergent in cool water. It took several rinses to for the excess dyes to be removed but this is a small price to pay when considering how fabulous the colors are! I hung the scarves to dry and ran the iron over them on the "blend" setting (a medium heat). The resulting cloth is soft, smooth and has a very nice drape. Valley Yarns alpaca/silk became a fast favorite. 

Here are some photos of the finished gentleman's scarves:

One final thing: I LOVE weaving tartan. I suspect that there will be more tartan weaving adventures in the near future! I think that the "Keith" and "MacDonald, Lord of the Isles" tartans will be next. So fun. And so interesting to learn a bit of history.

Be well,
Kate K.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Migrating from Etsy, Part 3

Hello, friends. Happy December! I hope that my friends here in the States had a lovely Thanksgiving and that you had safe travels; weather here in the Northeast was less than ideal around the holiday.

My new website, NutfieldWeaver, powered by IndieMade, is just about two months old now. New visitors find the site every day. Here are a few statistics via Google Analytics that might be of interest:

Between October 1st and November 30th:

281 unique visitors
3,466 page views
6.21 pages per visit
4:21 minutes was the length of the average site visit
18 countries are noted in the /location dashboard (US, Canada, UK, Brazil, and Denmark are the top 5).

Here's another interesting thing: if people visited the site as a result of a social media site, 73% of the visitors came via my blog and the rest came via my Facebook page. Thank you very much, blog readers and FB page fans! This might help me to discern how to best use social media to help to continue to spread the word about my new site, and I've been mulling over what the numbers mean.

The "Galleries" feature on the site has helped to keep people browsing. The top two galleries (I have 6 right now) that people visited were "Inspiration" and "Photographs from Clients." I really like the "Galleries" feature that is part of the IndieMade platform. It is interesting that people who visit the site seem to have an interest in a) what turns my creativity crank and b) how people really use or wear handwovens.

I have had several sales and also have received commissions via the "Contact" form on my site; this is encouraging.

All-in-all, I am still quite pleased with the decision to switch from Etsy as my primary selling platform to a stand-alone site. I am not making money hand over fist but this cannot be my main objective at this early stage.

Did you receive the Etsy seller feedback survey yesterday? I did. I filled it out and sent it in. There was a question about why, if you did not plan to continue selling on the site in the future, you made the decision. (I can't recall the exact wording of the question.) Originally I had a big, wordy paragraph typed up in which I voiced my numerous concerns about the direction that Etsy is taking in terms of allowing outsourcing of production of "handmade" items. But I deleted it and typed in something more concise: "I do not believe that Etsy is the right selling platform for me, as an independent artisan, since I have no interest in or the financial means to outsource production of my designs."

So, I will keep plugging away at the new site and, more importantly, will continue to weave, weave, weave. (I'm really excited about some new projects that I'd like to take a stab at in 2014). Next week, on December 8th, I will finish up my exhibit schedule for 2013. I'll be a LaBelle Winery, Amherst, NH from 11-4pm along with other New Hampshire artisans. The "Events" portion of my website has more information. How fun will that be?

Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below! I learn so much from all of you and enjoy our friendly exchanges.

Be well,

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Barclay Hunting Tartan & a new tool for Nutfield Weaver

Hello, friends.

I am really excited about a new purchase that I made recently to help me with drafting and pattern organizing. I am the proud owner of "Fiberworks" weaving software, Bronze edition. Woo hoo!

It will take some time to work through the user manual and to understand more of what the software program allows one to do. But so far, I am really pleased with the drafting ability (my version allows designs up to 8 shafts), color variations, and especially the "notes" page that is available for each design. (I use the notes to indicate length of warp, yarn sources, width of warp in the reed, etc...).

Here's a photo of my latest design for a gentleman's scarf in Barclay Hunting tartan:

It is a really nifty piece of software! I am determined to eliminate the loose sheets of paper that are filled with doodles and numbers and cluttering up my desk. In truth, I'm still using graph paper and colored pencils to start working on a design; the software program is helping to keep these drawings organized and, hopefully, permanently accessible.

I am looking forward to starting on the gentleman's scarves using the Barclay Hunting tartan design. I've ordered some alpaca/silk blend yarns for the project.

Do any of my weaving friends use weaving software? If so, please consider offering any insights that you have in the "comments" section below!

Be well,

Friday, November 15, 2013

Migrating from Etsy, Part 2

Hello, friends. Here is the next bit of chatter about my experience in moving away from the Etsy selling platform, which I have used since 2008. My new site, Nutfield Weaver, is hosted by IndieMade and is about 6 weeks old now.

I have been watching Google Analytics reports carefully and am pleased that there has been steady traffic and that visitors have come from a variety of places, including Japan, Denmark, Brazil, etc... There is about a 50/50 split between new and returning visitors. Many of the visitors are stopping in on their mobile devices, which seems interesting.

In this post I'll write about how I've been spreading the word about my shop. There are basically two ways that I've worked on this and they can be broken down into two methods: hard copy & online.

Let's tackle the "hard copy" version first.....

I updated every single piece of paper/business card/sticker that left my shop as soon as my site was up and running. This included:

  1. Business cards (I actually created new ones using the same tree and font used on my site).
  2. My "Caring for Handwoven Items" card. Since I enclose a tag with laundering/care instructions with all of my pieces, I made sure that my new website URL was clearly indicated on these.
  3. Stickers for the boxes in which I package fiber jewelry.
  4. Square 1.5" labels for ornaments, greeting cards, bookmarks.
  5. Thank you notes to clients.
  6. Shopping bag labels for artisan fairs.
  7. "Upcoming events" business-cards that I distribute to people who visit my booth and inquire about future events/locations. I also include one of these with every purchase.
  8. I'm sure there is something else that I just can't remember! 
In short, I went through a lot of printer ink! But I did not pitch my old business cards; they make really handy cards for labeling warp chains. (I am the only one who forgets how long a warp is, what is intended to be, and how many threads are in it? Maybe. I sometimes wind warps as a way to relax...)

Onto the online part of the puzzle. Here's what I did:

  1. Updated all social media accounts with my new URL including Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.
  2. Made sure that my e-newsletter reflected the new links. (Did you know that I issue an electronic newsletter? No? Click on the red envelope social media button on the right hand side of the page to sign up for your copy!)
  3. Changed my shop information on my blog.
  4. Used Facebook to highlight new additions to my shop page. For example, when I had a new photo gallery ready, I would send out a status update about it. I really tried not to overdo this. I should hate to become tiresome.
  5. The IndieMade templates allow for extensive social media sharing buttons for each item and for pages, so I made sure to include those. Here's an example:

This photo came through a little small, but you can see the "Share" and the avenues that allow this to happen (i.e. Blogger, email, FB, Pinterest, Twitter, and the "Share This" button, which allows you to post on loads of social media sites. Speaking of the "Share This" button, I set this account up so that it could be available as an option. It is sort of neat. Click here to find out more =====> "Share This."

There is still more to do, obviously. I have not yet created a new QR code for my shop but hope to get this finished before the December 8th show at LaBelle Winery

I did celebrate several sales since my first one earlier this week, so I am confident that the site will continue to build momentum. 

Time to make dinner! Chicken corn chowder and crusty bread tonight. 
Be well,
Kate K. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Christmas ornaments & good news

Hello, friends.

Good news! I celebrated my first sale on Nutfield Weaver last night. A red plaid table runner will be headed out to Washington State tomorrow. So, after a month of being "live," it was very rewarding to know that the site has a shopping cart that works! I plan to write a bit more about migrating from Etsy toward the end of this week -- something about how I've been promoting the new site.

On Saturday, November 16th, I will be exhibiting in Salem, New Hampshire (just north of Methuen, Massachusetts) at the Annual Village Craft Fair, held at First Congregational Church. This event has been held for many, many years, and I am looking forward to participating.

I'm bringing along table runners, notecards, scarves, towels, and, for the first time, a few holiday ornaments. Here is an example of one that I put together yesterday:

This is MacQuarrie tartan, woven from mercerized cotton in red and green. I think it has a Christmas-y look about it. Earlier today I finished weaving an 8 shaft "fancy" twill and will turn these into ornaments, too.

Snowflakes! (Can you see them?)

I put together a little festive hang tag for the ornaments which, along with the requisite price information, contains an explanation of each fabric's pattern. If you'd like to see what I did, drop me a note in the comment section and I'd be happy to share. I think that they'd make nice gift tags for just about any handwoven item -- and gift-giving is upon us!

Be well,
Kate K. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Holiday table runners

Hello, friends.

I have a few shows coming up in November and December (click right here for the calendar) and have been working on getting a few table runners ready. The huck lace runners are always popular, and so are the farmhouse plaid table runners. I just finished a few of these red runners:

and these forest green / hunter green table runners are in process on the loom:

I plan to have these ready for finishing by the end of this week. And then I'll be working on some custom fingertip towels for a returning client. Yay!

And now for a little bit of non-weaving related chatter... I have become somewhat obsessed with houseplants lately. I have never had much luck with houseplants despite the fact that I have a fair amount of (successful) outdoor gardening experience. If any of my readers would care to offer their favorite houseplant varieties or tips on care, I would love to hear them. So far I have had the most luck with pathos, rex begonia, and my lime tree and rosemary plants (brought in for the winter) are still alive. We also have a few succulents and cacti that have been around since our family trip out West. I purchased a $1.97 spider plant from Home Depot yesterday. It was horribly root-bound but hopefully will enjoy its roomier surroundings. I potted up an amaryllis late last week, too. Yesterday I read about humidity trays, but am a little hesitant to try anything too adventurous just yet (I had to discard an ivy plant and that set my confidence back a bit). 

Have a lovely day, all.
Be well,

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Migrating from Etsy, Part One

Hello, friends.

Thanks to all who read and commented on my previous post about my decision to separate from Etsy as my primary selling venue. I've been working on setting up an independent website now for about one month. I'll be sharing some of the things that I've learned and worked on along the way.

Three ways to let the world know that you have something for sale

There are many ways to set up a shopping feature on a website. For simplicity's sake, I boiled the options down to three (there is a fourth option - coding your own site from scratch - but this wasn't a possibility for me).

1). You can rig a blog to accept Paypal payments for your items. (I did this a while back on this blog for my sewing patterns). This option didn't seem like a good one for me because I wanted to have multiple photos of my items. It was also not obvious to me how "searchable" items would be on Google. If you have just a few things that you're interested in selling, this might be a good way to go.

2) There are free eCommerce sites that allow you to set up a page on your blog (or link it onto your blog). I didn't investigate this option very much because many of the free eCommerce sites appear to work with WordPress, and I don't use WordPress. Some examples of free eCommerce sites include BigCommerce and Shopify. Since I don't have a lot of HTML coding experience, I was a little reluctant to go the free route.

3) Pay for a site. This was the route I decided to go. I looked a variety of website providers. GoDaddy, 1and1, and Amazon offer these services. I decided to go with a smaller company, though, IndieMade. I reviewed the features available and found that they offered a lot of what I was looking for -- and all within my budget.

Why I am pleased with IndieMade so far:
* You can export your Etsy listings into your new site. There is a fair amount of editing required, but it is       a time-saver.
* It has features on it that I wanted to highlight (a good calendar for events, photo galleries).
* The FAQ page is very thorough.
* It was easy to set up social media sharing links on my pages and individual listings.
* There is a nice variety of page templates (I can change the look of my site without doing too much coding).
* I've only had to contact the help center once and the folks at IndieMade were quick to respond.
* I'm paying $12.95 per month after a free 30 day trial. With my plan I can have up to 100 items in my shop.

I spent quite a few hours investigating the options but I am happy with my new provider so far. And Google Analytics reports are encouraging: I've been getting visitors on a regular basis and they are clicking and staying on the site for a while. It is still too early to tell if the move will have been a prudent one overall, but you have to start somewhere, right?

If you have any specific questions about my "migration," please feel free to let me know. I'm NOT an expert, but I'd be happy to share what I've learned so far with you. I plan to share some of how I've been spreading the word about my new shop site in one of next week's posts.

Be well,

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Thanks, Etsy.

Hello, friends. I hope that you are having an enjoyable week!

I have been reflecting on the direction that I'd like my handweaving efforts to take ever since Etsy announced that it will allow shops to outsource production of "handmade" items. While I was chatting with my sister about how frustrated I was with Etsy's new policies, she suggested that Etsy might have done me a big favor. And indeed, I think that my sister was right. And this is why...

Reason 1: I'm a weaver.

After much thought, I determined that I want to be a handweaver. I want to make cloth. I do not want to be known as a "designer" or "author," and I certainly don't want to farm out the weaving process to someone else. Weaving is something that I absolutely love to do. I like every step of the process: planning a project, selecting yarns, preparing the warp, dressing the loom, weaving, and finishing my handmade cloth. To be disengaged from any part of this process would be, for me, inauthentic.

Winding a warp is one of my favorite parts of the process

Reason 2: Etsy is just too darned big.

Etsy is becoming really, really big. I recently did a keyword search on "handwoven" and was given over 29K items to review. Many of these textiles are vintage or antique, and many are produced (mass produced?) overseas. In order to have my (authentically) handwoven items more visible on the site, I would have to pay extra in search ad fees and spend an awful lot of time toying with search terms/tags. 

I'd rather be weaving.

Reason 3: I've outgrown Etsy.

"...a clearinghouse for odds and ends" (www.dailymail.uk Oct. 2013). "...eBay of the do-it-yourself movement" (New York Times, Dec. 2009). "....an army of crafters" (Inc., April 2011). These are just some of the ways that the media has described Etsy. Lately I have been balking at the term "crafter." (I had a rather unfortunate experience at a "crafter" exhibit lately so this might have something to do with it). Etsy Corp's recent mismanagement of a situation involving a highly offensive Etsy seller who was selling t-shirts that promoted violence against women was disturbing and just plain wrong. Then there are the resellers and shops that blatantly disregard copyright and intellectual property issues. There are just too many reasons against staying and paying the fees. I'd rather walk away from the negativity (as I see it) and focus on this:

Handwoven scarf by Nutfield Weaver

I'm not sure if I would have put forth the effort to try to discern the direction that I'd like to take as an independent artisan had Etsy not announced its new policies in early October. So, I think my sister was right -- they did do me a favor. Thanks, Etsy. 

Be well,

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Weavers, what do you do with a bit of left over warp?

Hello, friends. Lots of projects going on here at Nutfield Weaver. I finished weaving three silk and merino ladies' scarves this week as well as a table runner. The table runner is a long version of this one here; it will be used at the head table for a wedding reception in Florida.

I had a bit of warp left over from the scarves and also from the table runner. I used to try to squeeze usable items out of small amount of warp. (I have some "dish towels" and "table napkins" that have very atypical measurements). These days I've been using leftover warp to experiment with treadling patterns and new cloth options. Here is an example of a treadling design that I played around with recently (warp is an 8 shaft point twill):

And below is a brief adventure with hopsack on a straight twill warp:

The hopsack seems to be a  fabric that doesn't have much drape -- but this might be an asset depending on the intended purpose of the finished piece. While it is true that I did not weave a whole lot of hopsack, the sampling did give me an idea of what the end result might be. In any event, I think I learned a little bit about a new fabric structure before venturing into a brand new project using this pattern. And there is something to be said for that...

So, weaving friends, what do you do with your leftover warp? It is hard to throw it away entirely!
Be well,

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Single-maker Saturday: Bags by Melanie

Hello, friends. I am pleased to share with you the work of a New Hampshire craftswoman today, Melanie of BagsByMelanie. I met Melanie in person when we were both vending our pieces at the Concord Arts Market last October. She uses bright, colorful fabrics in her work and is careful to select high-quality fabrics, favoring Amy Butler and Michael Miller prints.

Here are just a few of Melanie's creations!

Zippered wristlet / clutch

Cosmetic pouch

Key fob
 I love the cheerful, bright fabrics that Melanie uses in her items. Her pieces would make great gifts, don't you think? 

Melanie works out of her home and manages to juggle her sewing obligations with her busy family (three kids!). Her work can also be found in "New To You," Concord, New Hampshire, and she ships her items worldwide. BagsbyMelanie has been open on Etsy since 2006, and her work has been favorably reviewed across the board. Here are just a few of her reviews:

"Got these (clutch purses) for my bridesmaids. They turned out super cute!"
"Super fast shipping! Bag looks nicer in person and is well made. Will purchase from this seller again. "
"I loooove it!! Well made, gorgeous fabrics inside and out; will shop from her again." 
"Ah! These are wonderful! Perfect for gifts for family!!"

Do take a peek at Melanie's shop and peruse more of her carefully and well-made items. They will be sure to put a smile on  your face!
Be well,

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Making diamonds today

Hello, friends.

I am gearing up for a local show this weekend and have a few new scarves in the works to take with me. The show is at Pinkerton Academy (Derry, NH) and is an annual event; the show is in its 21st year. Pinkerton Academy has a rich history in this area; Robert Frost used to teach there!

Here is a photo of one of the scarves that I'm finishing up:

I love this 8 shaft twill. I used floating selvedges on the sides and hemstitched the edges. The warp yarn is 5/2 cotton sett at 18 ends per inch. The royal blue yarn is a lovely silk and merino wool blend. It is lightweight and soft and very warm. When the weaving is finished, I will be spending time with the fringe-twister.

My new handweaving site is getting some traffic, which is very encouraging. If you haven't taken a peek yet, here's a snapshot of the first page. You can just click on the caption below and take a look at the rest!

Nutfield Weaver

That's all for now! The diamond scarf is waiting!
Be well,

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Single-maker Saturday: Nancy Wallis Designs

Hello, friends. I'm very pleased to share the jewelry of Nancy Wallis today. Nancy resides in Toronto, Ontario, and her work is a treat. I have a pair of earrings that Nancy made and was impressed with her use of color and her design -- you will be enchanted with Nancy's work! Nancy's really does create "Jewelry that Makes Your Heart Sing!"

Nancy's piece are often inspired by vintage designs. Isn't the cameo necklace just exquisite? And here are some of my personal favorites:

Nancy has a background in interior design and also had a decorating business. She currently works out of her home and manages all aspects of her Etsy shop; she is the maker, designer, photographer (Nancy's photographs are really crystal clear, aren't they?) copy editor, shipping expert -- everything! And her sweet pooch, Mabel, keeps her company while she is busy creating and also alerts her to the postman's arrival. Everyone needs a hand, right? You really must take a peek at Mabel while reading more about Nancy's creative process and biography here:

I hope that you'll stop by Nancy's shop site and peruse her wonderful pieces. Her items make excellent gifts -- you might even find that you'd like to treat yourself. 

Be well,

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Under construction and bespoke table runner

Hello, friends.

I have decided to take a big leap for my handweaving shop and am in the process of setting up my own website, independent from Etsy. The site is coming along nicely, although there are still a few things that I need to edit and polish. I plan to keep this blog up and running since I have been authoring it for a long time and it just feels comfortable. This blog feed will be available on my new site, though, and I really like that fact.

But back to the weaving...

A bespoke table runner is en route to California as of yesterday. It is a huck lace design and is made from "Cactus" (a very grey sage green) mercerized cotton yarn. Here is a photo:

and here is more of a close-up of the huck lace structure:

The loom is warped with the same "Cactus" yarn and is a variation of the runner and within a couple of days I will have a set of placemats for the same client.

My next exhibit is coming up soon so I will be readying a warp for mug rugs and preparing fabric strips for the weft. I have some lovely orange and sage calicos ready for cutting -- the colors are so autumnal!

Be well,

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Single-maker Saturday: Thistle Rose Weaving

Hello, friends.

Welcome to the first edition of my new series, "Single-Maker Saturday." In this weekly post, I hope to introduce you to an artisan who adheres to the true spirit of creating handmade pieces. May I introduce to you Martha Witcher of Thistle Rose Weaving, Metamora, Illinois.

Martha works out of her home-based studio in Illinois. She has several floor looms, all of which are warped and ready to be turned into cloth. Martha's overshot patterns are extraordinarily beautiful and you will be hard pressed to find a finer example of this handweaving technique (which, by the way, is very difficult to do and involves the use of multiple shuttles but somehow Martha  manages to keep her threads from turning into spaghetti and makes it all work together!)

Here is what is especially unique about Martha: she is a self-taught weaver. I daresay that most of us cannot claim this. While weaving takes a lot of self-discipline and time alone at a loom, most of the handweavers that I know have taken at least one or two formal classes, including yours truly. This speaks highly of Martha's level of dedication to her art. She is a credit to handweavers everywhere.

So, if you are looking for a special, carefully crafted item to grace your holiday table this year or for a lovely gift for a hostess, do stop in and peruse Martha's shop. Martha also authors a blog, where you can see photos of her works-in-progress & learn more about her handmade process.

I am fortunate to have a beautiful item that Martha made in my sewing room:

it is a treasure and a fine example of her artistry.

Be well,

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Made-by-hand vs. "handmade"

Hello, friends. Have you ever shopped for a special gift for a friend or a loved one on Etsy? If so, perhaps you have noted the tag line that appears right next to its main web address in your browser:  

"Etsy - Your place to buy all things handmade, vintage, and supplies"

I am curious to know what the new tag line will read after January 1, 2014, when Etsy's new policy of allowing manufactured goods onto the venue will take effect: 

The CEO of Etsy, Chad Dickerson, believes that this is an empowering move for shop owners, since many are just so sadly overwhelmed with their highly profitable and busy online storefronts, that the only way for them to cope is to hire out laborers who will do the actual work. And the labor force can be anywhere. And this way, since ours is a global economy, according to Chad Dickerson, "Etsy will change the world."

Well. Rather a bold statement, if I may say, since it seems to me that this is pretty much the way things run already. 

Etsy has taken it upon itself to alter (some might say "falsify") the definition of "handmade." What does "handmade" mean to you? If a person draws a sketch of, for example, a woman's winter coat, but does not cut the actual fabric herself or step near a sewing machine, is the item "handmade?" Please share your comments! I'd love to read them.

There are already 1 million active sellers on Etsy, and yours truly is but one. Small, "single maker" shop owners have legitimate concerns that we will be squeezed out of this online marketplace - the very one that artisans and craftspeople like us have helped to build and to promote. Here are just two "single-maker" shops that embrace the "made-by-hand" philosophy & offer high-quality, deliberately & carefully crafted pieces:  Elena Rosenberg handknits luxury fiber women's wearable art from her home in Westchester County, NY and Sarah Elaine of "Ohhh Lulu" in Orillia, Ontario designs, cuts, sews, and finishes carefully made pieces of beautiful lingerie.

What is a single-maker-shop girl to do? Well, in addition to my handweaving, I have been working hard to investigate other avenues of sharing my work. (And in truth, I have been working at this for some time now, well before Etsy's policy change announcement yesterday). I will continue to exhibit my work on a regional level and, as time permits, plan to hang out my own shingle out on the Internet and slowly dig myself out from under the Etsy platform. (So all of that HTML coding that I've been absorbing over the years just might come in handy.)

Until then, friends, know that all of the items that I make are "made-by-hand" and, in my case, "made-by-feet" as well.

I encourage you to read Etsy's policy changes here:

and, if you embrace the concept of "made-by-hand" artisans and craftspeople, consider stopping in at a "single-maker" shop and offering a word of encouragement and support.

Be well,

Monday, September 30, 2013

Chenille scarves

Hello, friends. Well, it's official. I have been completely and thoroughly bitten by the handwoven scarf bug!

I finished my first two rayon chenille scarves and am pleased with the results. I haven't woven with chenille since my very first weaving class many years ago. We used cotton chenille back then; I opted for rayon chenille because of the fabulous, rich colors that can be found.

Sapphire, emerald, and purple rayon chenille scarf

I began a second chenille scarf this weekend, and am enchanted with the colors:

Magenta, teal, and purple scarf on the loom

I have done some experimenting with finishing techniques (i.e. to hemstitch or not to hemstitch) and am learning about the peculiarities of weaving with chenille. So far, though, thumbs up overall. I hope to have a few of these scarves ready for an upcoming artisan show in Derry, NH in mid-October.

Next up is a custom table runner in a very pretty dark sage. The color of the yarn is "cactus," but I think it is really more of a sage:

That is all for now! Happy trails, friends.

Be well,

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Jewel-toned chenille scarf!

Hello, friends. Fall is a color-laden season for those of us fortunate enough to live in New England, and I've added a splash of color to my weaving projects lately. Here's a sneak peek!

I love working with this space-dyed rayon chenille yarn. It is silky smooth and the colors are really rich (purple, sapphire blue, emerald). I am anxious to finish this scarf up and to evaluate the drape of the cloth. There is another warp of rayon chenille just about ready to go onto the loom.

A couple of new homestead plaid dishtowels are in the shop this week:

By the way, the apples are tasty, too! (Macintosh & Cortland varieties this week. Honeycrisps are up next!)

Be well,

Thursday, September 19, 2013

I am a messy weaver

Hello, friends. I have a confession to make: I am a sloppy weaver. This is not to say that I accept wobbly selvedges or tolerate mistakes in a treadling pattern. I mean this:

The floor underneath my loom is littered with snipped choke ties from warp chains and leftover waste threads from the front beam. (My weaving bench is worse, and the top shelf/castle is no better. But I didn't want to shock you so only took one photograph of my untidy work area).

So I've decided to turn over a new leaf. My work area is small, and I didn't want another plastic garbage can in the house. So I made a little thread catcher for my loom today:

Isn't it cute? I used a medium-weight cotton so that I didn't need to stabilize with interfacing. It is lined, too. I added the red plaid ribbon bow on the front just for fun and love having an excuse to use the decorative stitching options on my sewing machine. Why the ribbon ties to secure the pouch? Well, it seemed easier than messing with buttons or hook/loop tape. Untying the pouch and dumping the contents (NOT on the floor!) can be done even while there is fabric on the loom, which seemed like a desirable feature.

What do my weaving friends think? What are your suggestions for keeping your work area free from clutter?

Here's to a future of tidy floors. At least by the loom.
Be well,

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Scarves for early autumn

Hello, friends. I had the pleasure of weaving for a friend from my University of Michigan days this week. What a treat it is to weave for a friend or family member -- all sorts of memories tend to come to mind during the process.

I really like this piece that I wove for Barb because it seems to be the perfect transitional piece for late summer and early fall. It is made from 100% cotton (to reduce the scratchiness factor) and has twisted fringe on each end.

I enjoyed making this so much that I prepared a second scarf in red and then decided to tie on an additional warp in blue:

I think that this piece would look really nice in a rich aubergine, don't you?

In other news, the Apple Country Craft Fair was highly enjoyable last weekend. It is so nice to see familiar faces and to strike up conversations with passers-by. I am steering my business focus toward participating in more local events over the coming calendar year. While I love selling my work online, there is something very satisfying about meeting a client face-to-face and chatting about colors, yarns, and weaving history. And I am pretty certain that the folks who stop at my booth enjoy the "petting zoo" aspect of touching a handwoven item, too. "It is SO soft!" are some of the best words any fiber artist can hear.

Be well,

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Apple Country Craft Fair 2013

Hello, friends. Whew! I've been very busy this week making final preparations for the Apple Country Craft Fair this coming Saturday and Sunday at the Episcopal Church on Londonderry. I really enjoy participating in this event because it is local and I get to see so many of my Londonderry neighbors.

I'll be bringing along some fiber jewelry and have added a few pendants to my mix of brooches and earrings:

and I've also added some trivets made from cotton rug warp yarn and calico rags:

and there will be an assortment of kitchen textiles, table runners, purses, and even a few scarves.

Here's to hoping that the weather cooperates! Saturday actually promises to be a perfect day - sunny and mid 70s.

Be well,

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Trivets & towels

Hello, friends. I hope that your August has been a pleasant one. Our garden is keeping me busy! Peppers have done particularly well this year.

In addition to gardening and preserving and getting the boys ready for another year of school, I have been weaving dishtowels and trivets. I just finished a very long warp (well, for me it is a long warp) of dishtowel fabric in colonial blue and cream. Twelve of these pretties are heading down to Boston for a client who has refurbished his kitchen:

The towels are ready to be hemmed. I have a couple of extra towels, too, and I will be taking those to the Apple Country Craft Fair here in Londonderry on September 7 & 8.

After weaving with finer threads for a long while I like to mix things up with a more robust weft. Yesterday I prepared calico fabric for weaving:

The colors here are beige with lavender, pale green, and robins egg blue with a spot of red. The robins egg blue is a personal favorite:

I plan to machine stitch the hems and include a crocheted hanging loop at one end of each of these soon-to-be-trivets. I think that this trivet would be the perfect mate for a teapot, don't you think?

Be well,