Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Hey Santa! How about a little weaving love?

There are some things that feel very festive to me. I don't suppose you'll be surprised to hear that most of them have to do with yarn in some way.

Here are some of my favorite things... just in case you're looking for a new weaving or yarn-related toy for Christmas.

1. Education. This will always top my list. And of course I think an online tapestry course from yours truly would be a fantastic holiday gift! You can find the options HERE. I teach a comprehensive beginning course called Warp and Weft: Learning the Structure of Tapestry and a new course this fall, Color Gradation Techniques for Tapestry.

2. A tapestry. Many many tapestry weavers are artists. Most of us do not have adequate representation in the art world for reasons that would take a book to enumerate. If you need a new piece of art for your home or business, a tapestry is an excellent choice. We all have our favorite artists. Find yours and buy a piece of art! You can start by browsing the artist pages on the American Tapestry Alliance website. The UK has a similar group (The British Tapestry Group). Tapestry is a durable medium, easy to ship, easy to clean, and only requires that you hang it out of direct sunshine (like all fine art). It is warm and inviting. Fiber is an important part of being human. You can see my tapestries HERE.
Rebecca Mezoff, (Barn Burned Down) Now I Can See The Moon, 5 x 17 inches, hand-dyed wool tapestry
3. Books. Christmas has always been all about books for me. A new novel or two and a selection of fiber books couldn't be better. Here are some of the best titles I've read lately.
  • A Shepherd's Life by James Rebanks. I am in love with this book. I'm already reading it a second time. He is an excellent writer. 
  • In the Footsteps of Sheep by Debbie Zawinski. This one made me want to grab a spindle, a tiny loom, and hit the hills in search of sheep. I wrote more about both of these books in THIS blog post. 
  • Traditional Weavers of Guatemala: Their Stories, Their Lives by Deborah Chandler and Teresa Cordon. Photography by Joe Coca. This book is gorgeous. It was a fascinating read about the lives of weavers in Guatemala. It made me want to go there today and meet them in person.
  • The Practical Spinner's Guide to Wool by Kate Larson. This is a new Interweave release. If you've met Kate, you know she is a talented spinner with a deep knowledge of sheep, fleece, yarn, and traditional knitting and weaving patterns. If you're a spinner, you'll want to read this.
  • If you need a great novel, the last one I read was, Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian. Fort Collins Reads picked it as their 2015 book and I went to hear Chris and his daughter speak. The book is written from the perspective of a teenager who is orphaned in a nuclear meltdown in Vermont. It is one of those books you can't put down.
4. Hokett tools. Jim Hokett's work will probably be on my Christmas list as long as he is making tools. He is a generous and wonderful maker and his tools are created of gorgeous woods and are so much fun to use. His business may be called Hokett Would Work (If He Wanted To), but he is one of the hardest working people I have ever met. We all mourn his absence at conference vendor halls these days, but you can still order his looms (Hauling big booths across the country is a lot of work! Who can blame him for staying home and making sawdust?). Because I teach a class about them and I was distressed when he stopped making the 8-dent looms (and because he is one of the nicest people anywhere), he still makes them for me. So for a little extra money, you can still get one of the mythical 8-dent looms. They're on my website HERE and they aren't sold anywhere else.
Hokett looms, 4 x 6 inch tiny in 8-dent
5. A tapestry fork. I still love the tapestry forks made by these people the best. Keep in mind that these are very small businesses and your fork will be made slowly by one person. It will be gorgeous, but you might not be able to get one before Christmas. Both of these kinds of forks are made with the teeth of dog combs set into wooden handles. I like the finer sett to the teeth. I believe both businesses make them at 10 tines per inch.
  • Threads Thru Time (I noticed tonight there are a few on their site right now. Grab one quick!)
  • Magpie Woodworks (You will likely be put on a waiting list, but John is working hard to make more forks.)
Another good tapestry fork is made by Al Snipes. I sell some of his 1 and 1.5 inch forks on my website HERE. They are carefully fashioned of wood and they feel wonderful in your hand.

6. Yarn. Now I really wouldn't want someone else to pick out yarn for me. I bought my mom some knitting yarn for her birthday this fall and held my breath for weeks. Fortunately I picked well and she knit it up into a beautiful shawl. But unless you are really in tune with your loved-one's yarn needs, you might want to consider a gift certificate. These are some of my favorite tapestry yarns.
  • Weavers Bazaar. This stuff is gorgeous. This is a small business run by two tapestry weavers and they know what they are doing. Their palette packs are wonderful. Yes, they are in England, but the shipping overseas is not nearly as bad as you just assumed it would be.
  • ALV. This is a beautiful yarn made in Norway. It is sold by Kathe Todd-Hooker in the USA.
  • Harrisville Highland. I often recommend beginners start with this yarn. I still use Harrisville yarns for all of my tapestries and my students use it in my workshops. It is made by a wonderful small mill in New Hampshire. I wrote a blog post about the mill if you like such things!
  • If you're a rug weaver, consider Weaving Southwest's yarn. It comes in gorgeous hand-dyed colors. They still dye in big tubs heated by fire like Rachel Brown, the original owner and matriarch of contemporary tapestry in the American Southwest, used to do. Check out their website for some great photos.
  • I sell a weft yarn sample card which gives you more ideas of yarn you might like for tapestry. It comes with a printed handout which details my opinion on each yarn's pros and cons.
  • And here are a few other ideas in blog post format: a post by me AND a fun guest post by Cheryl Riniker

7. Ready to go big? How about a loom?
  • My favorite loom for tapestry is a big one. Harrisville Designs makes the Harrisville rug loom. This is a countermarche loom with a warp extender and a worm gear. It really really rocks.
  • If you are not up for a huge floor loom, there are many other options. I talk about them in two blog posts from this year: Low warp looms AND High warp looms
  • If you're looking for a small loom but want something bigger and faster than the Hokett looms I mentioned above, you want a Mirrix. They are the very best portable tapestry looms made.
Mirrix looms (A 12 inch, two 16 inchers, and a 22 inch); tapestry by Cornelia Theimer Gardella (remember #2 above?!!)

8. A magazine subscription or a membership
  • The American Tapestry Alliance is a wonderful organization, based in the USA but with membership worldwide. Their resources, digital quarterly magazine, and other membership perks are well worth it. Membership per year is quite inexpensive and they have student rates.
  • Fiber Art Now is a beautiful fiber art quarterly publication. A subscription to this magazine would be a Christmas gift that kept delighting all year long.
9. An in-person workshop. You can see where I'm teaching in 2016 on my website HERE. If you like shorter classes, join me for YarnFest 2016 in Loveland (where you can take shorter classes from other instructors also). If you love long, focused efforts, come and take my two-week class at Penland School of Crafts in July. Registration for Penland should be up by the end of December. (Sign up early, there is no place like Penland.)

10. If you have a Mirrix loom, consider a Spencer electric treadle. I love mine. I wouldn't use a Mirrix with the extenders without one... well, frankly, I never use a Mirrix without one if I can help it these days. I am a floor loom weaver and I love controlling the shedding with my feet. Plus it speeds me up 50-100%.

While some fiber fun for the holidays is always a good idea, perhaps the best gift you can give someone is time. Time to learn. Time to weave. Time to share the joy of family and friends. Have a wonderful holiday season.

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