Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The best of 2014: My most popular blog posts this year

On the last day of 2014, here are some of the blog posts that people read the most this year. I'm not saying they were the best posts because some of those were cleverly disguised under headlines that did not sparkle and you did not read them. Click on the post title to see the full post.

The posts about tapestry tools and methods

A Dozen Gift Ideas for Tapestry Weavers
This was a list of some of my favorite tapestry things. I hope Santa made good use of the list this Christmas.

Tapestry Looms: what do you use?
You were very interested in this post about tapestry looms. I have the follow-up post in progress with all of your responses. Stay tuned!
Making yellow into blue. Color Gradation in yarn.
I taught my Color Gradation Techniques for Tapestry class several times this year. The first time was in my Santa Fe studio to a great group of students largely from the Pacific Northwest. There are many photos in this post of the wonderful things they did.
Weft Tension: how to control the amount of weft used in tapestry weaving
This is a post I use a lot when teaching. Weft tension is one of the biggest problems people have when weaving tapestry. This post gives you some ideas of how to fix it. Need more? My online class addresses weft tension throughout.

The posts about famous tapestry weavers and their methods

Jean Pierre Larochette, Yael Lurie and The Tree of Lives
I finally met Jean Pierre and Yael this year. I heard them speak about their new book and of course bought a copy. I enjoyed it thoroughly and it gave me a perspective on contemporary tapestry weaving in the USA that I didn't have before.
American Tapestry Biennial 10, San Diego
As one of the co-chairs for ATB10, I wasn't going to miss the opening in San Diego. This post has a video tour of the show and many photos of the tapestries.
Anna Kocherovsky, Wishing Well
Desert Horizons with Joan Baxter
I had the good fortune of taking a class with Joan Baxter at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico this year. The week was one of the best of the year.
James Koehler's Tapestry process... the last video
This post has a video made in 2010 not long before James died. It shows his process and you get a little flavor for what his studio is like.

Posts from my head... and these aren't even crazy pants

Warp and Weft enters a time warp... Timeline for all classes extended. A lot.
There have been a handfull of posts about the online class this year, but this is the one you all read. Probably because you were excited I extended the time-frame for the course. I designed each of the three parts to be done in about a month, but that length of time proved insufficient for many people. So I made the course 6 months long (except where I make mistakes like the current Part 1 class--it has been open since October and still has 6 months left--so sign up now!)
Yes we do need to tell people what we do is worthwhile. All of us.
This one is about believing in ourselves as artists and craft makers. I wrote it after hearing The Yarn Harlot, aka Stephanie Pearl McPhee, speak in Loveland. I laughed so hard I blew snot... plus Stephanie had this important message to share.

Wherein Rebecca gets an article published in Fiber Art Now... and goes a little nuts with the yarn
My article in Fiber Art Now came out about the same time I had to wind about a million balls of yarn for my Convergence classes. This one might be crazy pants... Yarn in a baby swimming pool. But the Yarn Mania video is a lot of fun.

Crushing the butterfly
I love Ann Patchett's writing. In her book of essays, This is the story of a happy marriage, she talks about what it is like to make art. I think we can all relate.

Still in Providence... A couple tapestry shows
I spent a great deal of my summer preparing for Convergence and then teaching. I wrote quite a few blog posts while in Providence. This is the last one. About the time I wrote this I thought, "I'll never do this again. I'm too tired." But with the blessing of time and memory loss, I can now say I'll go back.
Louise Martin, Looking Out. This was my favorite piece in the Untitled/Unjuried ATA show

Monday, December 29, 2014

Handmade holiday

There was a lot of knitting this holiday. For whatever reason, my brain kicks into knitting obsession around the end of November every year and I churn out some small project in multiples. This year there were several. I will admit that I have trouble with big knitting projects. I can happily plan and execute a very large tapestry and never lose my mojo, but actually finishing a knitted sweater is like climbing Mt. Everest. I have a bin under my bed with THREE sweaters that are completely knitted and just need to be blocked and sewn together. They have been there for years. No, small is the right size for me.

It started with the tiny trees. I ran out of wine corks (amazingly), but between my mother, sister, and sister-in-law, I now have enough corks for years to come. A forest is what I'm going for here (and to use up the bags of odds and ends of knitting yarn clogging my closet).
You can make some yourself. The pattern is by Julie Tarsha and you can find it on her blog HERE.

There were some knitted stars for my niece's Christmas tree. (Pattern is Stjarna by Karolina Eckerdal.)

Then there were the fingerless mittens. Thus far I have made five pair. I am out of yarn, so I might be done. The pattern is Super Bulky Fingerless Mittens by Spider Laurence.

And the baby hat and leg warmers...
There is another pair of leggings in process for another niece, but I didn't quite get enough knitting time on the drive across the country to pull them out.
I also put the Zoom Loom to good use making blankets for my 2-year-old niece's little people. I had to sew some together because "their feet are so cold". The only photographic evidence of these blankets seems to be this photo where the baby is wearing one on her head. The wool stuck nicely to her wispy hair. And yes, that is Santa Claus in the background putting together a new workbench for the older niece on Christmas Eve.
My Aunt Mary Lou loves to make dolls, and this one appeared under my mother's pint-sized Christmas tree for a couple little girls. Lulu is a marvel of details. She has a tattoo on her back that says Merry Christmas 2014 and an embroidered heart on her chest. My aunt knows her way around a sewing machine.
And I received a wonderful quilt from an old friend commemorating my dog Cassy who died about a year ago. Kristi knew Cassy when she was a young dog and she gathered photos of her and sewed this quilt.
A better handmade holiday has never been had. Bring on the fiber, it is only 360 days until Christmas.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

How to make a Harriet Tidball Christmas (thanks to grandma)

I have a whole stack of my grandmother's Harriet Tidball monographs. I am no longer a fabric/yardage type of weaver, but I hang onto these partly because they were grandma's and partly because, well, I can't get rid of old, interesting things.
My grandmother did a little decorating for Christmas and the most notable ornaments were long twisted things made by using a thick narrow warp and weaving metal rods in decreasing lengths as weft. When off the loom, the whole thing can be twisted and it stays. Grandma Marian would then decorate the rods with glitter glue and sequins and then twist them. They were hung all over her house every Christmas (along with the beautiful glass tree ornaments from Europe into which she had scratched my grandfather's social security number in case they were stolen--that Grandma Marian is really something).

Today while flipping through the Tidball monograph, I realized that the pattern for this decoration came from this very publication. Tidball instructs making tiny 4-inch decorative trees, probably to hang as a real Christmas tree decoration.

You can see by my grandmother's annotation on the photo of the small trees what she thought of them.
Yet I can tell you she loved the large version of these which are essentially made the same way.

Her trees were a couple feet high and hung from the florescent light banks in their living room (light for weaving!). Unfortunately I can't locate a photo of these crazy beauties.

Here are the instructions in case you want to make your own. If you try it, will you send me a photo? The first page is to make the small ones my grandmother thought were awful. The second gives you an idea how to make the larger twisted variety.

The monograph, should you have it on a shelf somewhere, also has some lovely ideas for making woven Christmas cards. Maybe one day when I have a little down time I'll give that a whirl. I'm sure I can find a free loom somewhere around here for that project.

Merry Christmas Handweavers!!

Update  12/24/14: A excavation expedition was mounted to my parents basement and one of Marian's decorations was uncovered. We didn't discover any of the twisty trees, but this one was hanging over her fireplace every Christmas for many years.
Source: Tidball, H. 1963. Merry Christmas, Handweavers, Shuttle Craft Monograph Ten, 21-22.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The best day in Boulder I've ever had. The Schacht Spindle Company.

I am a bit of a big fiber geek. Yesterday was a red letter day. I visited the Schacht Spindle Company in Boulder. There is nothing better than going to see the factory where your fiber tools are made. If you're not familiar with Schacht (and if you're a weaver from the USA I'd be shocked if you weren't), they make excellent wooden weaving and spinning tools. Their factory was like a little tour through Santa's workshop. I could have stayed all day watching wonderful things being made.

I was met at the door by the amazing Denise Renee Grace who is in charge of sales and customer service. She gave us a wonderful tour and at the end of it I had a fantastic conversation with the owners of the company, Barry Schacht and Jane Patrick. I heard about the origins of the company in the late 60's and the evolution of it to its present day success as a weaving and spinning tool manufacturing company. And all the while I was distracted by an exquisite Sarah Swett tapestry on the wall of their conference room. It was a commission that tells the story of the beginning of their company. If you go, ask Barry to tell you the story about the peace symbol in the tapestry. Worth the trip.

The place is a virtual warren of Santa's helpers. There are clearly some incredibly skilled people working there. The sheer variety of parts being made and finished was astounding.

This is a computer numerical control router. They use these machines to cut most of their parts. Then the parts go through various extensive sanding and staining processes before being assembled.

I wish I had taken photos of the process to make this wheel. It is the wheel from a Matchless spinning wheel. The Matchless is a gorgeous piece of equipment and seeing how this wheel was made was impressive.

I own a Schacht Ladybug spinning wheel. I told Denise what year I bought it and she told me who made it. The actual craftsman who put it together. That is the kind of company it is.

This is where the Wolf line of looms are made. Mighty Wolf, Baby Wolf, Wolf Pup. This one is a Baby Wolf just assembled. I have seen many of these looms in my workshops and they do quite well for tapestry. (So those of you who have one in the corner, give tapestry a go!)

And of course, the granddaddy of all looms, the Cranbrook countermarche loom has been made by Schacht for almost two decades now. There is no need for me to say that this baby is a fantastic choice for a tapestry loom.

Remember in my dozen gift ideas for tapestry weavers blog post where I linked a few umbrella swifts? Forget about them. This is the best swift I've ever seen. It is going straight on my studio list for 2015. It moves so smoothly with so little encouragement and it has a revolution counter. It will clamp to a table with a lip and that is saying something. I considered trying to smuggle one out, but I was pretty sure Denise would notice.

Jane Patrick is a fiber artist with many books and instructional DVDs to her name. Here is an intriguing book she wrote about rigid heddle weaving. After (sadly) leaving Schacht, I went to see the Boulder Handweavers Guild's juried show and saw a beautiful piece of Jane's. I was thrilled to meet her in person.

I left with a new toy. I bought a book about Pin Loom weaving a few months ago for various reasons, but didn't have a loom. I was going to make one, but then this one fell into my hands. Whoot!

Someone had a lot of fun making Christmas decorations on this loom.

And, to make the story even better, the company has chickens. If you work there, you can sign up for a week to feed them and you get to take the eggs home. They even have a community garden.
Their blog is excellent. Go visit it for more information about the company but also all kinds of projects. Their Spinzilla team blew my mind and I don't even spin (yet. January. It is planned. The legendary Maggie Casey has a class and she said I could bring my Schacht Ladybug.).
Chickens. In the parking lot.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Color Me Colorado... or New Mexican?

About a month ago I drove through the interior of Colorado. It was a beautiful sunny day. The ski resorts were all holding their breath... probably still are though I'm sure they have made a pile of snow.

I am not a skier. I know it is hard to believe. I have lived a fairly significant amount of my life in Colorado or within a short distance of Taos Ski Valley. But I don't ski. I'm too afraid of the trees and am a big wuss about broken legs and necks--mine or other people on the hill.

Nope. I'm the one waiting for this trail to open. Just six and a half more months. I am the plodding sort who likes to walk all day long on bare ground.

I was in the art supply store recently and I was looking at the stencils. I occasionally use geometric ones for designing, but this one caught my eye. I looked twice and realized that the dividing line between New Mexico and Colorado was missing (you'll also note that Kansas and Oklahoma have joined forces).

I have spent many years now moving back and forth between NM and CO and I wish they would just issue a drivers license and car registration for both states already. This is, I think, the fourth time I've had a CO license.

CDOR agent: Weight?
Rebecca: [hesitates. thinking, 125 right? I am sure if I held my breath I could fit in those skinny jeans.] Sigh. [Guilt, fear of derisive looks for lying because clearly I am NOT 125. Regret for being a bit chubby, though happy!--marriage does that to you.] Sigh. 150.

If I still had that first Colorado license I'd weigh 25 pounds less! Heck, if I still had the NM (slash CO) license from when I was 16... well, lets not go there. I didn't even wear glasses then.

Really I care not a bit about my weight. Like I said, I'm perfectly happy. But the pain of going to the DMV every year for the last I don't know how many to get a new license and registration has worn pretty thin. While waiting, I finished knitting an entire baby hat greatly pleasing the elderly woman watching me knit it. After we'd been there 30 minutes or so, she leaned over and said, I'm afraid you're going to have time to finish that while you wait. I leaned back and said, ma'am, I'm afraid you're right. I left the licensing bureau two hours later, finished hat in hand... probably a few pounds lighter too.

Nope. If Colorado and New Mexico are not going to join forces and help me out with this one, I'm going to have to stay here. 

Here are some trees I'm not afraid of. This is my obsessive holiday knitting project of the year. Pattern by Julie Tarsha. You can get it HERE. I have run out of wine corks and there is still a forest of trees coming. I am sure the solution is to drink more wine, but I'm a lightweight (ignore weight sited above) and I can't possible drink as fast as I can knit.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

My holiday gift to you is this short video expressing my joy in tapestry

Happy holidays. We say it over and over. This year I wanted to make something that expressed my love of making things. So I made this little video for you. Enjoy it!
Peace and joy,

Hint: Some of you get these Blogger posts in an emailed format. Videos don't work in email so you have to go to the internet and look at my blog there. The link is:

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Which tapestry hand beaters are the best?

Tapestry weavers love their tools. A much-loved beater is a necessary companion for the long hours at the loom. Several years ago, Lyn Hart introduced me to beaters made by Magpie Woodworks. These beaters are hand-made in small batches by an expert woodworker. The handles are wood and the teeth are made from dog combs. This makes the teeth smooth and strong. I love my Maggie beaters and guard them rather jealously. Because they are made in small batches they can be hard to get at times, but they are worth the wait.

The same is true for a new company I discovered recently. Threads Thru Time sells a similar sort of beater on their Etsy shop. These are also made with dog combs. (As seen here stamped with Thomas Creations)
It remains to be seen which of these beaters becomes my absolute favorite--you know, the one I don't bring when I teach workshops because I am petrified it will walk. That one. But it doesn't really matter because they are both fabulous tools.

Below is a video showing you these beaters in more detail. I also show you a Snipes beater and some small tools made by Jim Hokett at Hokett Would Work.

A little video tip: If you want to see this video larger (and I do recommend it), click the YouTube icon to see it there or the square icon in the lower right corner to go to full screen. Or you can click HERE.

Snipes beater
Beater from Hokett Would Work
Do you have another favorite hand beater? Perhaps one I don't know about? Please leave a comment below!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

A dozen gift ideas for tapestry weavers. (So you don't have to get your tinsel in a tangle!)

Life gets a little nuts around the holidays. It is a beautiful time of the year but it can be hard to stop long enough to find the still joy of it. Buying things for other people can be a happy practice in gratitude and giving or it can be a frustrating proposition. If you are a tapestry weaver or you have a weaver on your gift list, here are a few suggestions. You tapestry weavers might want to forward this post to your main gift-buying love.

1. An online class with Rebecca Mezoff. (You knew that one was going to be first, right?) What better gift could there be than education. My introductory tapestry techniques class is designed to give tapestry weavers a solid foundation in the basic skills. It is offered in several formats and you can find more details on my website HERE. Registration is open now for the class that starts January 5th... just after we've all recovered from the festivities.

2. A membership to the American Tapestry Alliance. ATA is a wonderful organization that every tapestry artist should belong to. The organization works hard to further the knowledge of tapestry in the world. Membership gives you access to a wonderful quarterly newsletter, scads of learning opportunities including workshops and mentorship programs, an online list discussion, juried shows, online exhibitions, educational articles, and the ability to be part of a vibrant community of tapestry artists. Go HERE to sign up!

3. A handbeater. Every tapestry weaver needs a hand beater regardless of the kind of loom they weave on. Threads Thru Time makes lovely beaters that are for sale in their Etsy shop. They are beautiful piece of art that will be a cherished tool for decades. I just got a new set a couple weeks ago and am already in love.
4. A small tapestry loom. A brand new Mirrix loom under the tree is pretty much a dream come true for any tapestry weaver. These sturdy versatile looms are made in the USA. I love them and own more than I will admit to.
5. A large tapestry loom! If you are in the market for a fantastic, solid, American-made piece of equipment, I can't recommend the countermarche Harrisville Rug Loom highly enough. It is my main loom and I will never part with it (though I may have Harrisville Designs make me a larger version!). There are two things on this loom that most floor looms don't have which make it excellent for tapestry: a warp extender (amazing, even warp tension) and a worm gear (infinite ability to loosen and tighten the warp). See the loom HERE. Check out this great video about Harrisville--woodshop shown at the end.

6. Jim Hokett is a woodworker who married a weaver. He makes wonderful small weaving tools (and some wonderful large ones too!) in his workshop in Magdalena, New Mexico. I teach a class using his small looms. These little lap looms and the tools that go with them are a fantastic gift for someone who already has a fleet of tapestry looms or for someone who is just starting out and wants to see what tapestry is all about. Take a tour of his blog to see some of the wonderful things he makes. Hokett Would Work (he also has a great sense of humor). Jim sells some of his things through The Woolery or you can contact him directly. I love these little 7 x 8 inch looms, his 7 inch shed stick, and his small turned beaters for starters.
7. Yarn. Every weaver needs yarn. Sometimes the best policy if you don't know what to get someone is to get a gift certificate so your weaver can choose their own fiber. The basic tapestry yarn I use for my students and online classes is made by Harrisville Designs. I buy undyed Harrisville Highland (color #44) and dye it myself. So if your weaver is a dyer, this is a great base yarn. You can also buy this yarn already dyed in cones or skeins.

One of my new favorite yarns (used in the above picture of the little weaving on the Hokett loom) is made by Weavers Bazaar. This yarn is made in England, but the shipping over the pond for small amounts is incredibly reasonable. Matty and Lin are the friendliest people and they can help you choose a good sample bag for your weaver. They even have gift packs all made up in various colorways.

There are a few other ideas about yarn sources in this blog post of mine.

8. An umbrella swift. Every yarn user needs a swift and a ball winder. If you buy yarn in skeins, it has to be made into balls before you can use it. Yes, you can have your wife hold it on her hands while you wind it into a ball by hand, but that may eventually lead to some marital tension due to the length of time it takes to do this. I use THIS ball winder (available in many places). There are various swifts out there of varying cost. I like THESE little metal ones. HERE is another wooden option.

9. A few fun gifts.
What weaver doesn't like to send cards with sheep on them? HERE are some cute ones. And HERE is another set of holiday cards picturing weavers.
Does your weaver put stickers on their car or elsewhere? HERE is one of a floor loom.
How about a T-shirt with weaverly stuff on it? THIS one is especially good. Weavers ARE warped.
HERE are some tote bags with various funny things on them.
What about THIS one?
I think this weaver needs to take up tapestry in retirement. I frequently say that tapestry weaving is a hedge against dementia and possibly insanity.

10. Bobbins. Many tapestry weavers use them. These brassy bobs made by John Moss and sold by Kathe Todd-Hooker at Fine Fiber Press are absolutely beautiful.
11. BOOKS! Books are always a good choice in my estimation. There are so many great books about tapestry out there. Here are a few of my more recent suggestions and a few classics.
  • Jean Pierre Larochette's recent book The Tree of Lives. See THIS blog post for details.
  • The Thread's Course in Tapestry by Mete Lise Rossing. See THIS post for details.
  • Any of Kathe Todd-Hooker's tapestry books. I especially recommend Tapestry 101 and Line in Tapestry.
  • If your tapestry weaver is interested in color (and who isn't?), I recommend a study of Joannes Itten. The Art of Color: the subjective experience and objective rationale of color is perhaps the best book about color out there--at least it is the one everyone should start with. The full version costs more than $100, but it is a gorgeous large-format book and I highly recommend it. If you can't swing the big book, there are smaller versions with less text and just a few plates. Here it is on Amazon. Try for a good used copy.
  • Woven Color by James Koehler. This is the autobiography of a tapestry weaver from the southwestern US. James was my mentor and teacher and this is his story from growing up in Michigan to his life as a benedictine monk to his career as a tapestry weaver. It is full of color plates of his work and pictures from his life. He finished this book in 2010 and passed away unexpectedly in 2011. This book is his voice now. See THIS video for more about James.
  • Tapestry Handbook: The Next Generation by Carol Russell. This is an old standard. This second edition is full of gorgeous tapestries. The text is about tapestry technique and while it isn't a super comprehensive manual, it is extremely solid and a book that all tapestry weavers should have on their shelves.
  • This is a book my mom got me for Christmas a few years ago and it has an honored place on my tapestry bookshelf. The Art of Modern Tapestry: Dovecot Studios since 1912 by David Weir. I most certainly want to visit this swimming-pool-turned-tapestry-studio, so if anyone has some extra frequent flier miles and a time-share in Edinburgh, I'm open!
12. An in-person workshop -- make a trip out of it! If your weaver loves to travel and take event workshops, I am teaching my popular Color Gradation Techniques for Tapestry class in Golden, Colorado April 30 - May 3. Registration for that is now open and you can find out more HERE. If that class isn't the one, I'll be teaching a color theory class and a few others at the Michigan League of Handweavers conference in Holland, MI in June. Registration for that is not yet open. And there will be more classes offered in Crested Butte and Golden, Colorado in the fall.

Have a wonderful holiday season. Drink the egg nog. Go see the Christmas lights. Play in the snow with some little kids. Love each other. Weave something!