The Comfort of Washing a Rug

And of making a rug, especially with friends.

 

sw rug hanging up

 

I can’t pretend I’ve been unaffected by the news the past few weeks. It could easily start to feel like the world is crumbling around us. It may seem trivial at first to post about anything I usually talk about here. But I believe it’s not. Actually, I believe that we need our creative pursuits, the things that give us comfort and fulfillment, more than ever when times get rough. Even more than that, I believe that by making something with our hands, by sharing it with friends, by just cooking dinner and eating it with people and having a face-to-face, honest conversation, we are making a difference. Taking a small step towards the world we hope for,”being the change,” as Gandhi said.

Last week, during a dry spell in our monsoons, I decided it was time to wash the kitchen rugs. I wove the one shown here two years ago, at my friend Lauren’s house (but never posted these photos). It occurred to me while I was cleaning it that this rug is actually a pretty good metaphor for the value of craft in our lives. All the yarns I put in it are ones I saved from my grandma’s stash after she passed away—a reminder of our connection, the passing of knowledge between generations, and the “waste not, want not” I try to put into practice.

 

sw rug weighing yarn

Weighing yarn and winding into balls, making a plan for the rug.

 

Lauren did the math, wound the warp (for several rugs, not just mine), and put it on the loom, so all I had to do was show up and weave, which was wonderful. We spent time together weaving and listening to music. We lit a fire. I remember other friends were there at least one day while I worked on the rug, doing what women have been doing for millennia: talking, eating, and making things together in community.

 

sw rug on loom

My rug on the loom.

 

The act of weaving brings up all kinds of good memories for me too, of learning to weave with my family and working on my grandma’s big loom. Like most textile crafts, the rhythm of the work is meditative. It calms my mind so that sometimes creative ideas bubble up, and other times I can think less, and just be. I’m coming to believe that just being is an important part of my growth as a human, something I need to carve out distraction-free time for, and practicing in fiber arts definitely helps me do that.

 

sw rug through warp

Looking through the warp at the rug in progress.

 

This week, it rained. The rain falling onto my high-desert home is a miracle of relief. Knowing that the forest will be sustained for a little while longer makes me feel better about everything—even politics, even tragedy. As long as we have the solace of nature, and a way to nurture our creativity, I think we’ll be alright. In fact, more than alright—I believe if we can keep those two things near the top of our collective priorities, we’re still working towards a better world.

Here’s to better weeks ahead!

 

sw rug on floor

The finished rug in the kitchen.

 

PS Karen wrote on a similar theme this week, and I found the comments on her post heartening. It involves seeking peace in the beauty of landscape and sheep …

 

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News Jan 2016

 

Arizona Fiber Arts Retreat, Things I Forgot to Mention, and More

 
Lately I haven’t been doing as good a job as I’d like keeping you all, lovely readers, updated when I have something going on outside of this blog.  I haven’t wanted to stick random announcements into tutorials or thoughts that will (hopefully) be read long after the news is relevant, but I also don’t want to pepper you with little posts for each bit of “look at this!” type news.  So I’ve decided to do a periodic news round-up when warranted.  Because this is the first one, there’s some overdue stuff as well as some newer items.

 

Old News

I wrote a few more articles that came out in Seamwork magazine this fall, and the latest one in the December issue.  Although I mentioned some of them in passing, I didn’t really point them out.  There’s one on how fabric is woven, and how to use your knowledge about that to improve your sewing.  It draws on what I learned when my grandma taught me how to weave, and uses a toy loom that belonged to my mom as an example.  The latest article is about five essential hand stitches, and it’s just what it sounds like, a tutorial on my most-used stitches.  I’ve been inspired by all the hand sewing and visible mending going on lately, and I’m happy to add to it!  Maybe my favorite article so far is the one on wool.  It was a total blast to research it, and I’m really happy with how it came out.  It covers some of the history and science of wool, and how to use that knowledge when you’re sewing with it. It also features my favorite (super easy) hand-wash method for all your lovely woolens.

As always, you can read any of the articles in Seamwork for free online.  I’ve also added links to the ones I’ve written in my category page (you can also get there by clicking “Sew” under “Tutorials + Inspiration” at the top of my site) so they’re included with the rest of the sewing info I’ve shared.

 

wool prep thumbnail

 

To wrap up the older news, I joined Instagram this fall, and also never mentioned it here outright.  My inclination at this point is to avoid anything that involves more “screen time”, but there was so much going on there, especially in the fiber arts world, that I decided to try it out.  And I think I like it.  It’s nice to have a place to share quicker projects, things in progress, and thoughts that won’t become their own blog posts.  And there was some surprisingly deep conversation going on there during #slowfashionoctober!  Still I’m determined to use it sparingly.  If you too are on this exciting/elitist/beautiful/frustrating/inspiring platform, do come say hi, I’m @frenchtoasttasha.

 

New News

The winter gathering at Arcosanti has a new name: Arizona Fiber Arts Retreat, and I’m teaching there again this year.  It’s coming up January 22 and 23, and as of this writing there are still spaces in both my classes.  One is on 3D wet felting, and one is making felt cuffs and beads (pictured below) while learning to use attachments, prefelts, and shaping in your felt making.  Click over to their new website for details and to sign up.  Observant readers of this blog may notice my digital fingerprints on the AFAR site, and indeed I’ve been spending a fair amount of time working on that lately.  It’s a bit surreal to be the one in our group with the most web skills, but there you have it!

Knitting classes are also starting up again at Purl in the Pines in Flagstaff.  The first session of my beginning knitting series is this Saturday (complete beginners welcome), along with a “knitting skills lab” where you can get all your questions answered and learn some new techniques.  If you’re interested, head on over to their class page for details.  It’s still snowing like crazy as I type this, but if the forecast holds, the roads should be clear by the time classes start.

 

Felt Cuffs with Tasha

 

I have a more contemplative post for the new year in the works too, but (appropriately enough) it’s taking a while to distill my “Slow” thoughts for that one.  In the meantime, if there’s anything you’d like to see in this space, or for classes etc. in 2016 feel free to let me know!

 

Making a Lining for a Simple Top

In which I concede that yes, some wool is itchy.

 

lined MD top front

 

My grandmother wove the fabric for this top, and she sewed it!  She gave it to me many years ago, but I’ve never worn it much, because when it touches your skin, the fabric is super scratchy.  You all know how much I love wool, and I try to advocate for it, so I usually say that it doesn’t have to be itchy!  But the truth is, of course, it varies enormously with everything from the kind of sheep the wool came from to the way it’s processed, leading to everything from super snuggly high-end next-to-skin layers all the way to heavy duty outerwear.  (And here’s something I can’t get out of my head since I read it, that we might not even want all wool to be soft, we want some to be hard-wearing too.)

Ok, so say that you do have a scratchy wool garment that touches your skin, what to do?  Line it!  I’ve had vague plan for lining this top for a few years, a plan which gradually clarified itself and worked out details in my head, as I realized that I could satisfy my clear need for more sweater layers using almost exclusively things I already had.

 

lined MD top side

 

This top is a very simple construction which seems to have a been a favorite of handweavers in the 1970’s.  It’s just two large rectangles for the front and back, and two more folded over for the sleeves.  It has slits at the side seams for a little more movement, and the edge of the fabric is just turned under to make a bit of a curve at the front and back neckline.

 

lined MD top reinforcementI’ve been storing this in my brain and knew I would use it!  A couple of the older sweaters I’ve re-used for Fiddleheads have a sturdy ribbon reinforcement at the underarms.  I know this is a point of stress for this top, as the stitches had already popped there, and I’m not going to want to undo the lining to fix it again!

 

I thought it would be pretty simple to line this, and I was right.  There is a lot of minor fudging going on here, and it doesn’t really show, since it’s um, the lining.  I measured all the dimensions of the top and cut the lining the same size, plus seam allowances.  I knew that that would make the lining a little bit baggy, since it’s the same size and inside the top, but I didn’t want to make it too tight, or make this project super fiddly.  For such a simple garment this worked well.

Since the issue with the itchy-ness of this top is where is touches my skin, I knew that I needed an edging that would stick out past the wool at the neck and sleeves.  I had two candidates for lining fabric in the stash, both blue rayon.  I really liked how the color and slight twill texture of one looked with the wool fabric, but it was a little heavy for lining and has more potential as a garment on its own.  So I decided to use the first fabric for just the edging strips, and the lighter weight, darker colored rayon for the main lining pieces.

 

lined MD top sewing detailsI’m trying something new here, a lot of the sewing details are in this photo.  I hope that it will both be visually more clear what I’m talking about, and make the main text a little less dense.  Click to enlarge and read!

 

No doubt, this project has a LOT of hand stitching, mainly backstitch.  Fortunately, I love handstitching.  It has all the advantages of knitting in that it’s soothing and portable, I could work on it anywhere, and while talking to people on the phone, etc., so it actually went pretty fast.  Plus, I didn’t want the stitches to show on the outside, and since I could place and pin the fabric as I went, handstitching gave me the most flexibility to see how things were coming out, and pin under more or less to adjust.

 

lined MD top inside done

handwoven by Dottie MillerSo, many little stitches later, there you have it!  Lined garments just feel so finished, and kind of luxurious when you put them on, don’t you think?  And, the itchy issue is 100% gone, to the point where I forget all about it. (Remind me not to cuddle small children while wearing this . . . )

 

lined MD top front cowl

 

Now I just have to figure out how to wear it.  I’m not used to having wide 3/4 length sleeves, and sometimes catch them on things . . .  The first time I wore this into town, I thought it looked better with a cowl or scarf on top.  But looking at these pictures, I kind of like it on its own.  I live in layers, and this one is a bit tricky to layer on top or under, so I think a cowl or scarf will be a good option when it’s cooler.  The weather has been so mild lately that I was really comfortable taking pictures outside in just the top.  It may be a sign of impending doom, but I might as well enjoy it, right?

 

lined MD top side cowl

 

Totally, that’s what I thought.  What are you working on for winter, assuming we get winter?