Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Making Bender

Years ago I ached for little undershirts to wash and fold, three dishes instead of two to put away.  I am careful to never wish away today’s dirty dishes and piles of laundry:  I know I am lucky to have them.  But in the words of a comedian whose name I have forgotten, “My wife was in labor for 36 hours.   I don’t even want to something I like for 36 hours.”

Searsport Shores campground is my home for a whole week, all by myself.  My sewing machines came along, and I have the use of Astrig’s roomy and well-appointed studio.  I am teaching campers how to sew and dye and how to make pom poms, and all my other responsibilities are three hours away.

I am eating granola out of the bag, fresh cherries as I dance around the studio (music all day long), and leftover Pad Thai from the take home container.  (I did have to wash the fork.)

Monday's dress

My suitcase was packed light, just a few items of clothing.  My fabric box was packed heavy.  Each day I dress the mannequin in front of the studio with a freshly made clothing item, and then I wear that piece the next day.  That’s the plan anyway, and it is working so far. 

Tuesday's tunic
I hope you’re enjoying your week as well.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Artist in Residence

Today I am packing my sewing machines, stacks of fabric, my patterns, gobs of wool, and my dyestuffs to go to Searsport Shores Ocean Campground!  I will be the Artist in Residence for the week, a position sponsored by Fiber College.

In choosing what comes with me, I have run across my mending pile.  The men in my life love to work outdoors, cutting trees, building roads, fixing vehicles, whacking weeds, planting gardens.  With this work comes wear and tear on their work pants.

I mend the holes that come from spilled battery acid and pockets caught on branches.

There is one hole that I cannot seem to keep up with however: The stepping-into-the-tractor full crotch blow out.

I am afraid these pants have seen their last mends.  It is time to demote some other less holey blue jeans into work clothing, and these will go to our land fill, where they will decompose into methane gas and power our local university.  Really.

The resident artist's studio at Searsport Shores is a little fantasy come to life:  Astrig and Steve have built a large sunny art room equipped with long counters, tons of floor space, a dye kitchen, sleeping quarters upstairs, and a porch that runs the length of the studio.  Oh, and it's a hop and a skip from the ocean.

My plan is to sew and dye up a storm.  I will be teaching simple hand sewing to the campers in hopes they will feel confident to mend their worn clothing, or so they may go home with a fun and useful item like this:

A toasty potholder, made from old sweaters.  Or mittens, or a hat.  Stay tuned.

And if you would like to have your own artist's retreat, take a look at the brand new artist's cabins they just added: Your fantasy can come true also.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Dress + Cardigan: Installment 5

Dress no. 5:  This fabric sat on my shelves for a long time ... not sure what attracted me to it initially. I cut and sewed the dress months ago; I figured there was enough yardage to work out any kinks in my pattern. Funny thing, fabric looks so different folded neatly, tucked in with lots of other beauties.  And now I realize it was a good idea to purchase it.  It looks so different, and I am quite fond of the print.

I have added an invisible escape hatch under the arm, much more reachable than a back zipper at the end of a long day.

And here is a companion cardigan, name to be announced later, but I'll give you a hint: It is the sweet beautiful name of a bird and a person.  It is knit from Starcroft's Nash Island Light, the 2011 clip.  I adore working with this wool.  It is fluffy and lightweight, and the long fiber creates a strong yarn.  There is no chaff - these girls sleep in island grass and seaweed.

The colorwork at the top is done Barbara Walker mosaic style, carrying only one color of yarn for any given row.

The buttons are from my extensive stash, glass I think.

My husband says this is his favorite sweater.  I'm really digging it, too.  There will be a pattern, but not until Fall!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

My Hiking Dress

This being the Year of Dress + Cardigan, I am attempting to incorporate dresses into my everyday wardrobe.   The company my husband works for, New England Footwear, planned a hike up Mount Sunapee:  This was my opportunity to sew a “hiking dress”, you know, an athletic dress that looked spot-on with my Lime Lites.  I consulted my style muse, Cal Patch, because surely she would wear a dress on a hike.  We decided loose, cool, and short for good movement, lots of pockets, and leggings to cover my undercarriage.

These are my Go Lite Lime Lites, great for day hikes and daily adventures.  The soft teeth on the soles grip the ground and absorb the irregularities in terrain.  The hard inner soles keep feet stable and protected.  I think they look hot.  And I am determined to make them my go-to footwear with a dress.

I cut and sewed a darling red smock, with charming half circle pockets like Cal makes.  Just the right length, buttons down the front, delightful fading and puckering of the fabric (I love when fabric looks aged), and my favorite elbow length cuffed sleeves.  Sweet.

But then … Wait … Suddenly my darling red smock morphed into a giant red house coat like the neighbor lady wore over her slip, with her Isotoner slippers, sucking down a Marlboro before company arrived for the roast beef and congealed salad.  Bummer.  I chalked it up as a failure.  Sewing failures are fine with me, really, I only wish I had allotted enough time to start again and get it right. 

I wore a pair of running shorts and a tee shirt on the hike, which turned out to be really challenging.  Five miles through slippery mud, muggy weather and several stream crossings (and then I was wishing I had not sewn a house coat, but instead exercised).  As I was climbing a steep outcropping of rocks, I told this house coat story to a friend behind me.  She paused and said, “I’m so glad you’re not wearing a dress right now”.

On July 4th we went to the Cate Park Band Concert and fireworks.  

I decided I would wear my house coat with some made-by-me leggings.   Red is a good American color; push through the awkward house coat-y feeling. And you know what happened?  My house coat morphed back into the darling red smock I had envisioned.  I love this little number!  I’m going to wear the b’jeebers out of it, pair it with dark blue jeans and a cardigan, and maybe even take it on a stroll …

What is wrong with me?

Saturday, July 6, 2013

A Quick Sweet Story

My Uncle died recently.  He was a brilliant man, fascinating and engaging, adored for his passion to share.  When I say brilliant, I mean MIT professor of 50 years.  Inventor of a heart valve.  A cryogenic scientist and decorated engineer.  Determined to teach the second law of thermodynamics to fifth graders.

He was a builder and a maker, too.  He and my father built our camp: They peeled logs for the barn, engineered a dam for the pond, repaired tractors, built roads, fashioned an outhouse from treasures my Uncle collected at the dump.

We were looking at slides my cousin's daughter had collected and came across a photo of my Uncle sewing white draperies.  I looked behind me.  Running the length of his living room were exquisite pinch pleated draperies, floor to ceiling.  I gasped.  I never knew.

And then my mother said, "Oh yeah, when Lou was pregnant he sewed her maternity clothes."

And there it is.  Discovery and the joy of making.  Sewing, heart valve, new outhouse.  All worthwhile.  So worthwhile.

My Uncle and my Dad, one log of many for a barn,
and a snowy scene to cool you on a hot day 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Nash Island, 2013

photo by Gale Zucker (c) 2013

I've been on a trip, a trip so full and grounding that it is challenging to put into words.  So whatever I say here, magnify it if you will, please.  And fill in the gaps to make the story more wonderful, because it is.  My host for the weekend was Jani Estell of Starcroft Fiber.  My travel companions were the delightful photographer/designer Gale Zucker, and ever-fun knit designers Mary Jane Mucklestone and Ysolda Teague.

MJ and Ysolda with MJ's trusty gazeteer

We've been to Roundup on Nash Island, an island of sheep way way up in DownEast Maine.  Here is my post from the same event last year.

This year the flock numbers eighty one ladies, two gentlemen, one sort of in-betweener, and almost a hundred lambs. The sheep have lovely fleeces, cleaned by the bright sun and sea breezes.  I did not take my camera or my phone onto the island (sorry, I regret this), so the photos here are from the mainland, some taken by me, others by Gale Zucker

Once a year the flock is carefully rounded up by a herd of gentle people, and corralled into sea worn pens there on the island. The lambs are lifted over the fencing into waiting arms and shuttled into the lamb pen, a  chaotic musical chairs transaction with squirming and bleating, and folks with their feet stuck in the mud (well, me at least).  Alfie Wakeman, an island steward and shepherd, examines and treats each lamb with preventative meds, gives a friendly scratch, and then sets them loose.

Each adult sheep is shorn by one of three women - Donna, Gerri, or Eleni.  Watching these three women work all day long, doubled over at the waist, respectfully rolling and nudging the plump sheep and freeing them of their wool - well, it is empowering.  If they can do that, surely I can get the lid off the jar, dammit.

The weather this year was picture perfect (again, regretting the camera decision).  The warm sun helped to dry the dewy fleeces and burned the spots we missed with sunscreen.  One brave young gal went for a swim in the cold ocean.  Even if the weather had not been so clear, the workers for this event all maintain bright and sunny faces, no matter.

The wool is stuffed in burlap sacks and hoisted onto the waiting boats, shipped back to the mainland, and trucked to Jani's new mill, where I set up my cot and slept like a baby.  Bucket list item: Sleep in fiber mill, Check.

Jani's Wool Wagon

Ysolda and Grant weighing the wool
Nash Island Light samples, in the new mill

This, my friends, is the way wool is made.  With loyalty, tradition, team work, thoughtfulness, and really really hard work.  I love this wool.

Mary Rebecca, photo by GZ (c) 2013

photo by Gale Zucker (c) 2013