Monday, June 25, 2012

Yarn bombed

I have happily found myself in the middle of piles of yarn. I am dyeing yarn for classes I am teaching later in the summer and fall and for a very exciting workshop I am taking later this summer and am generally feeling that some yarn management strategies are needed. I suspect that my partner would agree with that assessment.

Yarn Bombing is a term I learned from The Yarn Harlot. Apparently at knitting conferences (and I have never been to a knitting conference, but I would consider it as a recreational endeavor) people actually knit little things that they spread around the facility. Knitted wraps for trees and banisters, little knitted creations hanging from lamp pulls, socks on table legs... yarn bombing. My house wasn't so much bombed by finished items as by piles of dyed and undyed yarn. I will probably never dig my way out. Just warning you. (This would be why my partner is strongly advocating I have my own studio which is separate from the rest of the house. Yarn has a way of creeping out of it's room into all other corners of the place.)

(6/29/12: Here is an even better post about yarn bombing by The Yarn Harlot:

The practice of dyeing my own yarn seems to increase the general yarn clutter. I have run through all the undyed student yarn I have here (don't worry, there is more in storage which will be coming back to the dye pots soon) and have moved on to dyeing experiments (more on this in a future post). The dyeing process itself adds to the yarn chaos. It needs to be prepped and then it gets dyed and then it sits around drying and then it has to be balled up and readied for classes. During all of this I get interrupted by work and babies and my general distractedness and thus, yarn bomb.

This yarn is gorgeous. It is Vevgarn from Norway. I bought it from Noel at Norsk Fjord Fiber who was infinitely helpful and had every color I wanted in stock. It comes in hundreds of colors, though I dyed some myself and found that is dyes amazingly well. I haven't woven a tapestry with this yarn yet, but I believe Tommye Scanlin uses it a lot and her tapestries are gorgeous... which seems a good recommendation for the basic materials.

My father has always been an apron advocate. This (dye-spattered clothes) is what happens when you dye without using one (plus it is probably safer to wear long pants and covered shoes and wear an apron as the boiling acid-water is not the greatest thing to spill on yourself).

Personal Protective Equipment. Use it. Do not follow my example (despite it being 95 degrees outside and over 100 in the dye shed). I do wear my respirator and goggles Dad... and I will buy an apron the next time I'm shopping the online chemistry store (do they have brick and mortar chemistry stores? I was in an old dusty one in Albuquerque at least a decade ago, but I don't think it is there anymore. I need a new thermometer because I keep breaking mine and I think those glass pipets are really very cool.) Most of the dye comes out of my clothes as it hasn't been set with an acidic pH, but they are ever quite the same again once exposed to a dye day.

This is what Cassy thinks about yarn:

Thursday, June 21, 2012

An open letter to the Symbols of the Southwest EVFAC 2012 students...

Dear Symbols of the Southwest students,
You rock. You did an awesome job this week. Thanks for being my guinea pigs on this class. I have a pile of new ideas of how to make the class better thanks to you.
Despite being stuffed into a hot room with a thousand looms, not enough space, not enough Pepsi, too much noise from the fans, and too much La Cocina, we had a great time--at least I did!
Despite the exact colors you needed not being among the stash of yarn I brought (this is always the case no matter what), you made some beautiful things.

As always there wasn't enough time to practice design and weave a piece. Tapestry is such a slow practice that finishing anything in a workshop is a challenge. Next time this class will be three weeks long (just kidding--maybe one week). And despite my best intentions, I failed at forcing you to spend more time designing than weaving. I guess we all want to weave more than anything.

A special thank you to Mary Cost for allowing us to view and discuss her work.

And finally thanks to Leslie for being my pace car from Ojo Caliente to Antonito on the way home Sunday. You probably didn't know I was behind you, but it helps me drive better when I'm working out problems in my head to have someone driving a constant pace in front of me. I had some new tapestries to design and sometimes that happens while I'm driving.

And in case you didn't get enough suggestions of what to use for design, here is a symbol the Colorado contingent saw on their way home: Mt. Blanca. She is one of the four corners of the Navajo world, White Shell Mountain, the eastern boundary of Dinetah. I particularly respect this mountain from a climber's perspective. I used to live at the base near the "town" of Blanca at 8200 feet elevation. To climb to her summit at 14,345 feet is no walk in the park and people die on her just about every year (jeeps roll, they get lost, they get caught in avalanches, they fall down the scree slopes, they try to make it to Little Bear Peak despite lacking climbing skills... things happen.)

And don't forget to find your creative space... (I just hope it isn't as hot as this one was!)

Happy Weaving,

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A dye shed at last

I have never had a dye shed. I have lived in several different houses since I started dyeing my own yarn and always I have crouched in carports, kneeled on porches, struggled with the wind blowing out my burners, dropped yarn in the dirt, frozen in blizzards, carted heavy buckets of water for hundreds of miles... But THIS particular rental house had this little building at the back of the yard. I thought nothing of it when we moved here as it was stuffed with trash.

...including the storm windows for every window in this house, every single one broken. (Just as an aside now that is summer and hot, not a single window in this house opens. They are all painted shut.) The entire property was full of junk actually. Emily worked for days to get it all out of the yard.  She cleaned out all that broken glass as well as piles of broken bits of this and that... bird feeders, rake heads, an old dog bed peed upon by many mice, pain buckets half full of hardened paint in an assortment of colors (our landlord is a house painter which might explain why the windows are all painted shut), a variety of dead bugs and other critters, and some sort of mid-sized animal trap (perhaps related to the skunks--see prior skunk blog posts referenced HERE). Emily cleaned it all out (after the yard unfroze--the detritus came to light in layers as the snow melted, the last being a generous covering of cigarette butts) and quickly proved that her desire for weekly trash pick-up was warranted.

This is one of the greatest gifts I have ever received--and I didn't realize it until today when I got out all my dye stuff to get some yarn ready for a workshop next month. Here is the inside of my new little paradise. Yes, that is an old propane stove riddled with bullet holes. Though it is still hooked up to a propane tank which may or may not contain propane, I will not be using it.

Here is my new dye stove which is significantly beefier than my old one which is languishing somewhere in a storage locker. After multiple attempts to find it somewhere between the loom parts and the piano, I gave up and bought this one. It has legs. I don't have to bend over so much. This is good as the 11th anniversary of my 29th birthday is coming up in a couple months and sometimes parts get creaky.

I couldn't be more thrilled.  Every time I go out there to stir a pot or shift them around I giggle a little bit and skip over the grass. A dye shed! Imagine.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Espanola Valley Fiber Arts Center Video

Here is a nice YouTube video about Espanola Valley Fiber Arts Center:

I have been a member of EVFAC for many years now (a decade? I don't know!). Beth Orrell speaks about the center in this video as being a place for people to find out who they really are. She focuses some on people with disabilities and people who don't have job skills for the wider job market. As an occupational therapist this resonates with me strongly. But EVFAC also holds very advanced classes and has fiber artists of all levels teaching and learning there. The classes can be anything from a few hour exploration of something to a multi-day intensive with a world-renowned teacher. The Espanola valley is a beautiful place to visit, halfway between Santa Fe and Taos.

Watch the video. Consider a class at EVFAC.
(Also consider my class June 15-17 if you do tapestry! You knew that was coming, didn't you? We need a few more people to sign up for Symbols of the Southwest for the class to be successful.) Here is my website link to the class information also: Rebecca's website...

photo: Laura Barger

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Symbols of the Southwest class at EVFAC

A few months ago I mentioned a class I am teaching at Espanola Valley Fiber Arts Center  June 15-17. That blog post is HERE. I am getting excited about the class and wanted to say that there are still some slots open. The class descriptions are on the EVFAC website HERE.  

The class description:
The southwestern United States is a place rich in culture, landscape, and weaving traditions. Tapestry weaving here is practiced by Navajo, Hispanic, and Puebloan weavers with traditions that reach back hundreds or thousands of years. In this class we will explore questions about the influence of traditional southwestern weaving on contemporary tapestry practice and how symbols are important in Native and Hispanic weaving practice over the last centuries and today. Most importantly, we will consider how we can use symbols from our own experience to inform our design process and investigate the essential pieces of ourselves that lead us to art making. We will use symbol as a design tool, create several tapestry cartoons, and weave either a small tapestry or a study for a larger work.

Basic knowledge of tapestry techniques is necessary for this class. We will explore whatever techniques come up during the class, but it is helpful if you know how the structure of tapestry works and have done a basic piece or two.

Instructor Bio: Rebecca Mezoff grew up climbing the mesas and red rocks near Gallup, NM. She has won numerous awards for her tapestries which are in various public and private collections. She studied contemporary tapestry as a student and then apprentice of James Koehler for 6 years.  You can see her work at She teaches workshops throughout the United States and currently resides somewhere in the southwest where she doesn’t mind having to dump the sand out of her shoes (you can find out where she is now on her blog at

The class is going to be fun. We'll look at some traditional weaving from this part of the American Southwest, talk about use of symbols, both traditional and personal, and explore design techniques using symbols. We will spend time playing with design and work on weaving some of our ideas. As always, we will address the technical issues that come up and talk about use of color in tapestry. Call EVFAC to sign up. (505) 747-3577.

In other news, I have been in Boulder this weekend for a Sensory Defensiveness course from the leading experts on this sensory integration disorder, Patricia and Julia Wilbarger. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, just realize it is an occupational therapy thing. The Wilbargers did release me just in time... I got a half an hour at this great store before they closed:

Shuttles, Spindles, and Skeins is a great yarn shop and they have a huge weaving room with some beautiful Schacht looms (which are, after all, made in Boulder--I can't wait until I'm here on a weekday and I can take a tour of the factory).

Yellow columbine blooming on the street in downtown Boulder.