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,
Kate 

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,
Kate

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,
Kate







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,
Kate


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,
Kate 


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,
Kate

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,
Kate

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,
Kate