A Beloved Husband, Father & Friend

 

A “Heritage” blanket is a very special work of art!  This one was created from the cashmere sweaters worn by a client’s father.  When she contacted me asking if I would make some scarves for her, I hesitated, knowing that my vision and a client’s vision is sometimes very different, but we agreed to talk about possibilities.

We texted and I explained there were a number of factors to consider: How many sweaters, how many scarves, how quickly you need them, if there are enough sweaters or would we need to add some, etc.

We visited by phone and agreed there were enough sweaters to make a large blanket.  She put them in the mail right away, as she wished to have the blanket before Christmas. She also mentioned that she occasionally wore her father’s sweaters around the house.  I was beginning to realize this wasn’t going to be just another blanket.

Because this was going to be created from a particular person’s sweaters, I wanted to know more about him. I wanted to be able to think about him and his life as I worked. His daughter shared that he was 73 when he passed away in 2013.  He and his wife were married almost 50 years and that he lost a son in the towers on 9/11.  He had a very successful dental practice for 50 years.  Apparently he had a huge personality, loved people, golf, food and travel.  She sent a photo of a man with a huge smile wearing a bright orange sport coat!

The minute I opened the package of sweaters, I could tell they would become a bright, cheerful blanket!  Such wonderful colors!!  I hope this blanket will do justice to the memory of this beloved husband, father and friend.

A Bag of Yarn

I love the clean look of minimalism. The clean lines, simple clothing wardrobes, open spaces…I love it, but realistically I know I’ll never be able to achieve it. I have been making an effort to sort through things and clean out spaces. One of those spaces was filled with yarn…yarn I bought, yarn I was given…yarn and more yarn.

If you like any type of fiber work, you will understand the urge to purchase fabric, thread, yarn, etc. It can take over your house, so I cleaned….at least a little bit! I gathered several trash bags full of yarn and hauled them out to the garage. That’s as far as I got. My intention was to find a home for the bags of yarn…either to give them to some other person who loves yarn or to take them to the Goodwill store. The bags of yarn sat there for several months. I even called someone I thought might use them but we never connected.

One evening I was project-less with several free hours, so I brought the yarn back in the house, sorted it and started crocheting small blankets.  There are lots of places that will accept donations of small blankets or lap robes, so it shouldn’t be difficult to find a home for these.  I feel much better now about that bag of yarn!!

A Mother’s Son

 

 

Last year I went on a trip to France.  The tour was with the Daughters of the American Revolution and focused on the anniversary of the end of WWI.  We visited several of the American military cemeteries and monuments in France maintained by the American Battle Monument Commission.  These cemeteries are beautifully cared for, peaceful resting places commemorating the service and sacrifice of American military in WWI and WWII.

During one of the cemetery visits, we were given the opportunity to place a flower at the tombstone of our choice.  If I had thought about this before I left home, I would have looked up someone from our hometown to remember.  Since I didn’t know anyone buried in this cemetery, I chose to place my tribute at the grave of an unknown soldier. As I placed the single flower, I wondered if anyone had ever placed a flower for this young man?  How long had it been since someone knelt to remember him?  He was some mother’s son and she must have been left heartbroken and wondering where he was for the rest of her life.

This experience inspired the cashmere blanket I recently completed.  Blankets are big projects and I have decided to start naming each one.  This one will be “Remembrance.”  The poppies are for remembrance and were inspired by the poem, “In Flanders Fields.”  The colors lead your eye from the darkest black through shades of gray and finally into a burst of glorious, vibrant red.  This blanket will be for sale on my Etsy site: https://www.etsy.com/shop/DianeHamillFiberArt

I see this blanket inspiring hope through remembrance.  Even though the soldier I sought to honor is unknown, he is not forgotten and because someone remembers him, he lives on.  I hope you will be inspired to remember someone you hold dear.

 

 

 

What Goes Around, Comes Around

 

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A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the pink cashmere baby blanket that was lost in the mail and making it’s way around the world.  It started life many months ago as a pile of cashmere sweaters and evolved into the cutest, softest little blanket.  A lady in the United Kingdom purchased the blanket from my Etsy shop and I mailed it to her.  Then the problems started.

After several long conversations with customer service at the United States Postal Service, I determined the blanket had arrived in the UK and sat in the Royal Mail postal office until it had worn out it’s welcome and was marked for return to sender.  I’m not sure where the slip up occurred, but the blanket was once again making it’s way “across the pond!”

In the meantime, I was away for a family vacation.  I had decided that if the blanket had not arrived when I returned home, I would have to do something to fulfill my obligation to the lady who made the purchase.  I don’t know about you, but things like this hanging over me, make me very uncomfortable and I felt a huge need to make clear this off my mind.  I like to check things off my “to do” list and this had been on the list for some time.

Since I have quite a collection of cashmere sweaters, recreating the blanket wasn’t difficult.  I still had photographs of the original.  I designed another pink cashmere baby blanket and set aside a day to sew it together.  

I’m sure you have probably guessed the rest of this story…..I finished the new blanket about 3:00 p.m.  The mail arrived about 4:00 p.m. with the packet containing the lost baby blanket!!  And now….if the lady in the UK still wants a pink cashmere baby blanket, I have two!

Finished!

This has been a learning experience for me.  A few days ago, I wrote about this project…making a blanket from reclaimed wool sweaters.  I enrolled in an online class with a wonderful teacher, Joan McClure Olson.  I have admired Joan’s work and follow her online.  This is not my first time to try making a blanket/throw from sweaters.  It has been a trial and error process, but along the way, I have refined techniques and learned new methods.  I have found a process that achieves the professional look and quality I was working toward.  Information on Joan’s class can be found at  https://www.facebook.com/groups/blanketclass/

This sweater blanket is listed on my Etsy site https://www.etsy.com/shop/DianeHamillFiberArt   I hope you will visit the site and do some Christmas shopping!

I Hope You Get a Hole in Your Sweater!

I hope you get a hole in your sweater and you decide to give it to me.  Working with fiber art is an addiction.  Any quilter, knitter, spinner, weaver, etc. will tell you they are an addict.  Even though their closets, storage sheds, and under every bed in the house are full of yarn, fabric, patterns and all of the accompanying tools; they are not able to pass up a fiber sale.

Recently I have been working with cashmere and wool sweaters.  While I am really recycling this fabric, the more “upscale” term is “up-cycling.”  I guess up-cycled sounds more classy or gives the impression you are not making things from yesterday’s newspaper or plastic shopping bags.

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Here are just a few of the cashmere sweaters I purchased in one day of sweater shopping.  You see…..I told you it was an addiction!  Part of the fun in the excitement of “the hunt.”  I love finding a perfectly good cashmere or wool sweater for a few dollars.  I can’t wait to take them home, wash and felt them and starting cutting them up.  Yes, it used to give me pause to take a pair of scissors to a perfectly good cashmere sweater, but it is also fun to turn someone else’s trash into a treasurer.  I soon got over the remorse of cutting up cashmere and delighted in the creative process and the final product.

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Here is a stack of pieces ready to be sewn into something new.  Cashmere is sooooo soft and cozy.  Who wouldn’t want to snuggle up in a throw made from 100% cashmere?

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I often like to add embellishment on something I’ve created.  Making something that is unique is the goal of every artist.  So, you see, I hope you get a hole in your sweater and think about sending it to me!

The “Around the World” Baby Blanket

 

This poor little cashmere baby blanket is lost!!  It is wandering around all by itself somewhere out there in the world, alone and needing to find it’s home.  It started life as a pile of cashmere sweaters.  They were purchase by me at various resale shops, washed and slightly felted, cut into large pieces, pressed and cut into squares and rectangles, sewn together, pressed some more, photographed and listed on Etsy.  A kind lady in the United Kingdom purchased the blanket and it was promptly sent on it’s way……then the problems began.

Yes, there were tracking numbers.  The tracking number led me to the U.K. and then the parcel just stopped.  The kind lady wished to have the cashmere baby blanket.  This began several long phone conversations with customer service at the United States Postal Service.  When I finally quite listening to the menu of options and repeatedly ask for “representative” I actually spoke to a person! She was most helpful and filed an inquiry with the Royal Mail.  Apparently the blanket had made it almost to the destination!  It sat in a delivery office until it exceeded the time limit for delivery and has been returned to the sender….ME!  Oh my!!

Now I am waiting on the poor little cashmere baby blanket to come home.  No sight of her yet.  The kind lady in the U.K. informs me she still wants the blanket, so if it ever arrives, we will start the process over again.  I hope this little blanket eventually finds a baby and keeps it warm and cozy!!

A New Project from Old Sweaters

I am taking a master class online.  The class is being taught by a woman who makes and sells blankets and throws from felted sweaters.  I have admired her work online and while I already have some experience at this type of fiber art, I want to learn some of her techniques.

I love working with natural fibers….especially wools and cashmere!  Of course, the thought of deliberately shrinking and cutting up a cashmere sweater is a bit daunting, but if they come from the Goodwill or Salvation Army store and the price is right, it’s a little easier to take the scissors and make that first cut.

Living in Southern Oklahoma makes finding 100% wool or cashmere a bit more challenging.  Our winters are simply not cold enough to warrant owning lots of warm sweaters. This makes the thrill of the hunt even more fun.  I’ve found lots of absolutely beautiful fabric to work with.  Cashmere is my favorite.  It’s so soft and makes a beautiful, light weight throw or blanket.

The “Felted Wool Blanket Master Class” requires the use of wool or wool blend sweaters.  I decided not to purchase additional sweaters for use in this class and hunted through my stash of sweaters to come up with a selection of wools.  I was inspired by the sweater in the center of this photo.  The background is a pretty dark gray with a colorful abstract design in bright pinks, chartreuse green and turquoise.  Here are the sweaters after they have been machine washed and dried in the dryer.

thumbnail_IMG_0163 (2)The cutting process in completed.  Sweaters are cut apart at the seams, steam pressed flat and cut into 6 inch wide stripes of random length.  Next comes the “fun” part….laying the pieces out in a design.  I tend to like a random look, but there are endless possibilities.  I make a point to not let two pieces of the same sweater touch each other and to use a brick-work or offset style between rows.

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IMG_0427Beginning to pin pieces together.   The photos and numbers help me keep pieces in order!  Starting the sewing process is exciting…..this one is beginning to come together.  Lots of pressing in the future!  This is a really fun process and I love creating something new from something that was going to be thrown away!!  I will be continuing the class and hope to post the finished blanket soon.

 

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Two sides of a Warp and a Smile!

 

It’s amazing how a small change can bring about a totally different result.  This is true in life as it is true in weaving.  The two finished pieces of weaving couldn’t be more different but I only made one tiny change.

The photo on the left shows the fabric as it came off the loom.  I warped my loom with several different blue yarns.,  They are all about the same shade of blue and slightly different in texture.  I put on 100 inches of warp, enough to make two mobius cowls.  Originally, I planned to weave two identical pieces.

During the weaving process, I decided I was not going to have enough of the variegated yarn I was using.  I was being very careful to use the yarn in a way to make the colors flow from one section to the next, rather than have an abrupt change in color.  This necessitated winding and rewinding bobbins, but it was not too much of a problem…..I was just running out of this particular yarn.  How did this happen?  Well, I often purchase odds and ends of yarn for my weaving, not knowing exactly what I will make with it.  Sometimes, you don’t calculate, you just weave.  Lots of fun things happen when you are able to let go of a bit of control!

Since I wasn’t going to have enough for two similar cowls, I changed yarn about midway through the warp.  I switched to a blue, black and silver tape type yarn.  This is a lovely yarn and the little bits of different color and texture make a versatile, easy to wear piece of weaving.

As you can see…..one small change…..totally different outcomes!   Of course, now I am wondering how this might apply to my life.  What tiny change could I easily make to produce a different outcome.  I’m going to try out a few things.  Today, I’m going to practice smiling at people.  If I catch someone’s eye, they are going to get a smile from me.  I’m going to the store right now and practice!

The Creative Itch

 

I believe we are all creative beings. You might say you don’t have a creative bone in your body, but I think otherwise. Your creativity might be expressed in a different way than mine, but we all have an urge to produce something, make something, leave something of ourselves. We create in all types of ways…. art, writing, relationship, invention…. the ways are endless.
Most of my artistic work is done in fiber…. weaving, knitting, quilting. The yarns seem to almost talk, asking to be made into something useful, beautiful, functional. Collecting the yarns, grouping the colors, placing them next to each other, moving them around for a more pleasing effect, warping the loom, beginning the weaving and watching the piece grow under my fingers, finishing the fabric, photographing the completed piece, placing the work in the world, all these steps appeal and cause a sense of accomplishment. Doing this is an “itch” that must be scratched!
Even when other things demand my time and attention, I feel that urge to be creating. Perhaps the timing isn’t the best, but there are small ways to satisfy…. taking note of a lovely color, working on a small piece of knitting, planning for the next project. Just thinking about yarns, beads, cashmere, wool and cotton helps placate the creative itch when time won’t allow for a big project.
These hand towel and dishcloth sets allow me to be creative when I don’t have a lot of time for a larger project. They are simple, functional, easy to weave and finish and provide satisfaction for me as well are for the people who purchase them.
So when the creative itch strikes, don’t fight it, cause something unique to come into being through your own imagination and desire!

 

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