Books for Beer Lovers

I’ve been a recycler since my childhood days. I always saved bits of fabric, string and paper to create collages or fold them into 3 dimensional objects to create a mini city. This is a habit that extended into my life as an artist today. In weaving there is a lot of waste. Long strands of  unweavable yarn at the beginning and end of a loom woven project are inevitable. Although the strands are too short for the kinds of projects I do, I save the yarn and have used them to stuff pillows and add fringe to other projects or used them in Creative Aging MidSouth workshops  with senior citizens. This spring I used my bits of leftover yarn and scraps of fabric from the linings of the purses and bags that I weave to create earrings. With the addition of some beads and wire they turned out quite colorful because the fabrics I choose always seem to be bright.

Earrings made from recycled yarn and fabric

Earrings made from recycled yarn and fabric

The pair in the center is wrapped with fabric cut from upholstery scraps that I use for purse lining, and the other two are wrapped with strands of yarn.

Paper packaging also seems excessive to me, and I find that every week I recycle several folded boxes from food products and toiletries. Occasionally we have a few beer cartons which I salvage and use them for covers of my handbound books. And I suspect that my collection will grow because lately Memphis has become a sort of hot spot for breweries. You can read about that here. This fellow Memphis blogger is a local foodie and biking enthusiast who also knows his beer.

My latest handbound books made from beer cartons are currently for sale at Allie Cat Arts, a funky and eclectic art gallery in the Cooper Young neighborhood of midtown Memphis. Oh, and my earrings are sold there too!

Handbound books made from recycled beer cartons

Handbound books made from recycled beer cartons

And for those interested in making their own mini version of these recycled books, I will be teaching a class at Allie Cat Arts in late August. Participants need to bring only their own beer cartons and brown paper bags.

mini hand bound book made from recycled beer carton

mini hand bound book made from recycled beer carton

The mini Ghost River book above utilizes a long stitch binding that a new learner of book arts can easily sew. Below is a detail of the hand stitching that I have incorporated into the spine of the full size Ghost River book currently for sale at Allie Cat Arts.

hand bound book made from recycled beer cartons and hand stitched over an exposed spine

hand bound book made from recycled beer cartons and hand stitched over an exposed spine

I know how I’ll be staying cool as the dog days of summer are upon us here in the South.

 

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Leaving the Octopus’ Garden

After a 6 month hiatus, I am finally emerging from my hideaway beneath the ocean waves. Can’t say the past six months have not been uneventful. This is what I did:

I ate well.

Strawberry Margarita Cheesecake

Strawberry Margarita Cheesecake

I drank well.

Red wine sangria

Red wine sangria

And I relaxed well.

On the beach in Curacao

On the beach in Curacao

But I have also worked hard, already having four shows behind me in 2013. And usually that is the total number of shows I participate in in any given year. I have been working on a few new products. One being earrings made from yarn leftover from my weaving projects with fabric recycled from other projects.

Earrings made from recycled fabric and yarn

Earrings made from recycled fabric and yarn

I also introduced a new line of scarves which I have called “Watercolor” scarves because the colors in the novelty yarns  in the warp seem like they blend into each other. There are eight colorways in this line:  Blue Bayou, Purple Passion, First Blush, First Encounter, Rhymes with Orange, Hydrangeas, Spring Fling and Mellow Mushroom. You can see them all here.  And here is an example of one of the scarves.

Purple Passion Watercolor Scarf

Purple Passion Watercolor Scarf

This particular colorway was purchased by a very stylish woman whom I met at  Art2Wear  Nashville. She liked it so much, she even blogged about it! Thank you, Alicia!

So as I emerge from the octopus’ garden I am preparing for new challenges in weaving, and I will be more diligent in writing about them. I promise!

Octopus Garden Sidewalk chalk drawing

Octopus Garden Sidewalk chalk drawing

Bag It, Gladys

I think I am done. I have been weaving fabric to sew into bags for a number of years now. Probably about 15 years. That’s almost half my weaving life! And I really do enjoy designing and creating bags, but every time I try to sell one I am disappointed. Customers seem to like the style, but it’s not the right color, too big, too small, too casual, not the right strap, etc. And I’m talking about all kinds of bags from tiny, what I call “pick pockets” (TM) for storing your guitar picks to” the mother of all tote bag” humongous bags. Some are for evening, some for daily use, and others are just for fun. Once, and I am grateful it only happened once, a customer was admiring my bags and expressed her approval. But the next question she asked was  “Where do you get your fabric?” Really?

I just can’t help it, it’s a fact that I love all kinds of  purses and tote bags. But the truth is, the current market can’t support the cost that is worthy of a bag made from handwoven fabric, then carefully constructed and sewn with a lining, a pocket and often a hand-twisted strap. The bags I wove these last few weeks will be my swan song.

If you recall my post Back to The Future, there was an image of  the double weave fabric I was weaving still on the loom. This is the fabric now:

Hobo bag made from handwoven double weave fabric

Lined interior of hobo bag with magnetic closure

I have also been playing with recycled fabric and cutting narrow strips from thrift store t-shirts to make my own “yarn”. Here is a tote bag made from strips cut from a neon green t-shirt. The weave is a rep weave which I seem to be fond of!

Tote bag woven in rep weave with t-shirt strips in the weft.

Lined interior of tote bag with pocket and magnetic snap closure.

And here is a photo of the tote bag’s fabric while still on the loom with the t-shirt strips on the stick shuttle. I used a metallic thread called “holo-shimmer” as the alternating fine warp on the boat shuttle to get the rep weave effect.

Tote bag fabric still on the loom.

So now I took the t-shirt idea a step further and added recycled jeans to the mix. These two bags were woven in a rep weave and both have recycled jeans pockets in the interior.

Mini-messenger bag woven in rep weave with a hand-twisted strap.

Rep Weave hobo bag woven as one long strip.

Yes, the fabric of the hobo bag was woven in one long narrow strip, approximately 7 1/2″ wide by 96″ long. I then folded it to create a strap from part of the strip and joined the other sections to make the body of the bag. Blogger Donatella who writes doni’s delis explains it here. It’s quite ingenious.

The interiors of the last two bags were lined with denim fabric and each  has an inside pocket taken from a  pair of  recycled jeans.

Interior of hobo bag with denim lining, recycled jeans pocket and a magnet snap closure.

These bags will definitely be one of a kind, because I am not weaving them anymore.  Though I may still weave one or two just for me, or for my daughter, or for a friend… But maybe not this summer. Definitely not this summer.




Back to the Future

Yes, May was a busy month with graduations, reunions and out of town guests. June finds me back at the loom, this time weaving something from my not too long ago past. It’s been awhile since I have woven a rag rug. When my son went to college, I wove one for him, and now it’s my daughter’s turn. She and I like to visit thrift shops and look for nostalgia items or clothing that can be recycled. I often buy used  jeans at these shops so I can cut out the pockets. I make a sort of patch from the jeans’ pocket and then sew it onto denim fabric which I use to line the purses that I weave.

Lining pocket from recycled jeans

This lining is from a small rep weave messenger bag that I recently completed.

Small rep weave messenger bag with denim lining

Rep weave to non-weavers is a term that refers to a traditional Swedish weave known as ripsmatta. It is a very sturdy weave as the warp threads are packed close together when threaded on the loom. And so with rep weave on the brain, I warped my Macomber loom with 600 ends of cotton carpet warp for a rep weave rug woven with strips from recycled jeans. This is what it looks like at the moment:

Rep Weave rug woven with recycled jeans

And this is the rug once finished that will go with my daughter to Chicago where as it happens is also the home of my son’s rep weave rug.

Here is another rag rug that I wove some time ago. This one is woven in a point return twill or goose eye pattern. Lucky seems to favor this one.

Lucky on a handwoven goose eye twill rag rug

Detail of the goose eye twill rag rug pattern

Playtime is over, and I am done with weaving with thick weft yarns for awhile. I miss working with fine, smooth and silky yarns. The kind that is soft and that drapes beautifully. Here is another project just completed where I wove two layers of fabric at the same time in a technique known as doubleweave.

Doubleweave fabric on the loom

The fabric on the bottom is bamboo yarn and the fabric on the top layer is a variegated tencel yarn. Both rep weave and doubleweave are slow patterns to weave. In fact there’s nothing fast about any kind weaving. But for me, I believe my future holds the promise of working with finer, smoother and more elegant yarns.

Spin Span Spun

Ashford traveler spinning wheel

So I’m polishing my wheel.  It’s not what you think. Haven’t used either of my spinning wheels in quite some time. And well, frankly I miss the rhythmic pull of the yarn and watching a cloud of soft fiber softly twist and wind onto the bobbin. And finally  being rewarded with a luscious colorful skein of handspun yarn that can be used in my weaving.

Some of my handspun skeins of yarn

I have been spinning nearly as long as I have been weaving which I started in 1980. But I have not spent as much time at the wheel as I have had at the loom. So I have some catching up to do. The lovely handspun art yarns that I have seen on etsy recently has inspired me to start spinning again and create something beautiful. Just go to etsy and search for “Art Yarn”.  Some very talented spinners there.

Then there is Pluckyfluff. Pluckyfluff if you don’t already know is the Queen of handspun art yarn.  This is the very talented and creative Lexi Boeger from California who travels the world to share her skills and expertise with other handspinners and fiber lovers who want to create luscious and unusual art yarns. She has written two books:

Handspun Revolution is sadly out of print!

Intertwined, the book is a piece of art by itself

And she is coming to Memphis! And I am one of the lucky ones who will be sitting at her feet, absorbing all of her wisdom and hopefully creating something beautiful. I am especially interested in spinning with non-traditional materials. I look forward to using my small collection of art wire and spinning that as the core around which I will wrap colorful locks of mohair and odds and ends of ribbons, lace and bits of bamboo yarn leftover from my weaving projects. Maybe I can finally figure out how to weave a 3-D project on my floor loom with yarn that will hold a stiff shape on its own.

Reclaimed fabric is another non-traditional fiber I plan to use in my spinning.  If you have read some of my older posts, then you know that I like to use fabric from clothes that I have recycled into strips and incorporated into my weaving projects.  This is something that many of my weaving students like to do.  I can’t wait to use “rag” strips and twist them around metallic yarn, handmade paper, ribbon, felted bits and other reclaimed material. Fabulous! Art yarn indeed!

So I am polishing my wheel, polishing my dormant spinning skills and gathering some of my stash of hand dyed fiber.  Fiber that has been sitting around for awhile and waiting for this day.  Yippeee!

Hand dyed mohair locks, purple and orange

Hand dyed mohair locks, green and magenta

Graduation and Plastics

Does anyone remember the scene in the movie, “The Graduate” where a  party guest says to Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman), “I have just one word for you – plastics”? Apparently new college grads awaited a promising future in the field of plastics in the 1960’s. My month long absence from this blog has been due to both graduation and plastics. My son recently graduated from college, and I have been spending a bit of time with him in Baltimore. But more on that later.

My loom has been busy with projects that are woven with strips cut from plastic grocery bags. Students in my weaving workshops love these projects because the material is cheap, easily procured, quick to weave, and the finished projects are often lovely. My handwoven plastic “fabrics” are usually sewn into tote bags and purses.

Handwoven tote bag, woven with strips cut from plastic grocery bags

The project was inspired by a free “Bag of the Month” project from Handwoven Magazine The bag was woven in a plain weave with doubled cotton carpet warp in the warp and single strands of cotton carpet warp in alternating picks in the weft. The plastic bags were cut in 1″ wide strips. They are from The Fresh Market, and the green logo on the bag shows up in random green stripes in the weft. I lined the bag with some cotton paisley fabric I had on hand. It turned out to be an attractive functional bag, and one cannot easily see that it is made from plastic!

My high school age daughter then challenged me to make fabric out of plastic strips that would be suitable for a small purse worn with a shoulder strap. I had only seen plastic strips woven in plain weave, so I wondered, “What if…..?” I threaded my loom in a 4 harness goose eye twill with cotton carpet warp, cut up some plastic bags in red and white, and this is what I came up with.

On the loom: goose eye twill fabric woven with strips cut from plastic bags

The weight of these plastic bags were a bit heavier than the first project, and the look and feel of the plastic material is more apparent here than in the finished tote bag. Next time, I will need to cut the heavier bags narrower than the 1″ strips that I had been cutting. Eventually this will be sewn into a small purse.

And yes, the graduation ceremony was lovely and we are all happy that my son is off of our payroll. He has a job, and it’s not in plastics.

Stop Sign in Baltimore

Park bench in Baltimore

Where Muse?

I wish I could respond as easily as Igor in Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein when he answers “There wolf!” to the question “Werewolf?” Where is my muse?  Did it leave with the traveling Broadway production of  Young Frankenstein when it left Memphis to go on to Omaha?

 

Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein at the Orpheum, Memphis

Or perhaps it disappeared during those strange events that occurred during last weekend’s Supermoon?

 

Supermoon of March 2011

Wherever it is, it’s not here with me. And I’m getting anxious because, for one I have a couple of spring shows lined up. The first of which is less than two weeks away.

 

A Celebration of Fine Craft by Memphis Association of Craft Artists

I’ve been trying to come up with some fresh and new designs, but I just can’t get away from the old ones. Maybe some photos of my previously created work will help inspire my muse to return.

 

Detail, cotton, bamboo and ribbon handwoven scarf – pink
Detail, cotton, bamboo, ribbon handwoven scarf – turquoise
Fringe detail, cotton, bamboo, metallic handwoven scarf – yellow
Isaac Hayes – handbound blank journal made from recycled 45 rpm vinyl records
Roberta Flack – handbound blank journal made from recycled 45 rpm vinyl records

Isaac Hayes and Roberta Flack, please help me find my muse!