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!

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!

 

My Friend Died…..

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so I bought her sewing machine.  My friend was a quilter.  She made quilts for veterans with Quilts of Valor.  She made quilts for a local organization that screens children who have been abused, so they had something soft and warm to comfort them at a terrible time in their lives.  She was a night owl and stayed up late working on quilts for many others.  I’ll bet she sewed a million stitches on that machine.

She was a teacher.  She taught my children in high school.  She also taught at the college level and shared her love of our country, her knowledge of our history and her passion for education.  She helped several deserving students receive scholarships.

She was a patriot.  She gave back to her country and her community by giving of her time and talents through the Daughters of the American Revolution, serving as her chapter Regent, Treasurer and a State District Director.

She wasn’t young, but she was young at heart.  She stayed active and engaged in both body and mind, until a massive stroke took away her independence. I don’t remember ever hearing her complain about her health, but I know she was a breast cancer survivor. Her outlook was always positive and she had a “can-do” attitude.

I didn’t really need her sewing machine, but now I have a spare.  A sewing machine never quits at an opportune time, it only breaks down when you are in the middle of a project, so now I have a back-up, but more importantly, I am honoring my friend by taking care of something that meant so much to her.  I will use her machine to sew cashmere baby blankets, felted wool throws and finish weaving projects and while I sew, I will be thinking of her and remembering our friendship.  As long as she is remembered, she lives on in our hearts.  Maybe I’ll even make a quilt.

When Things Get Tough…

tie a knot and hang on!  Warping the loom is not my favorite thing to do, however it is absolutely necessary if you want to weave something.  Warping a loom consists of steps like “slaying the reed” and “threading the heedles.”  It sounds like a foreign language!  The warp  is the lengthwise yarns on the loom and the weft is drawn through, over and under the warp to create fabric.  Warping a loom takes some time and patience and it and has to be done correctly before you can weave.  Sometimes a new warp can be tied onto the loom using the previous warp.  It’s still a tedious process.  Like many things in life, when done correctly, warping the loom and weaving the fabric produce order out of apparent chaos.

I created the painted warp in these photos at the Artesian Gallery in Sulphur, Oklahoma about a year ago.  Part of the delay to weave this was just being busy, but part of it was savoring the anticipation of creating something from this beautiful warp.  I dyed or “painted” enough warp to weave two scarves.  It was amazing to see how different each warp looked and wove.  The colors changed in beautiful gradients as they blended.  I love the way the colors bleed into each other.  Putting this warp on the loom and weaving it make me hope there are more painted warps in my future.

You can see by comparing this photo with the previous one of the work on the loom, that the color schemes change mid-warp.  In other words, there are two completely different projects in this warp.  One is blue, reds and greens; while the second one is blue, red and purple.

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After warping the loom, the weaving has begun!  I’ve added some solid black stripes to add width to the finished fabric.  Other weavers at the Mahota Studios, where I weave, tease me about always adding “a touch” of black to everything I make…..it’s mostly true!  I can’t wait to get this fabric off the loom and do the finishing.  There is still lots left to do before this will be two garments, but now that I’ve anticipated and savored, the process has begun.  Hopefully the finished products will be worthy of the wait!

 

Henry’s Blanket


Henry is my daughter’s fourth child and first son. What a joy to share in the surprise (they chose not to know the baby’s gender) of the birth of this little boy! I drove his sisters to the hospital after he was born and the anticipation of whether they had a sister, or a brother was almost too much. With much excitement and squeals of laughter, we all welcomed Henry.

I’ve made each of my grandchildren a blanket either before or shortly after they were born. They are all different, just as each child is different. Different blankets are done in different mediums. They are knitted, crocheted, quilted and now, made from cashmere sweaters. Henry’s blanket is made from felted cashmere sweaters. It is possibly the softest baby blanket I’ve ever made.
Being the first boy, Henry came into a world full of everything pink. Because we didn’t know if he would be a boy or a girl, his wardrobe consisted of gender neutral colors. Now that Henry had arrived, it was time to go shopping! A new nursery décor was in order. A world of adventure awaits Henry: a world with soft elephants, friendly turtles and gentle lions and lots of sisters!
I will be sharing more about how I started working with wool and cashmere sweaters in a future blog, but for now, I hope you will enjoy a photos of Henry’s blanket.

Follow Your Art

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When is something art? When you stop and think about it, that is a very profound question. I’ve been in wonderful art museums, seen a famous piece of “art” and thought a second grader could have done better. So, is art, like beauty, in the eye of the beholder? Is it something new and unique from the mind of the artist? I don’t know the answer, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about lately.
I’ve always thought of my work as “crafty.” Many of the fiber arts can be craft, but can also be art. I think of some of my early attempts and most of them were more craft than art. It was only when I began to weave and work with cashmere and wool that I felt empowered to call my work art.
What I create comes from my mind and flows from my fingers. It is unique in this world. I feel compelled to fashion something new and useful from fiber. I am excited to wake up and start working on a project. This convinces me that I should, with all my heart, follow my art!

Learning a New Skill

Please be patient with me….I’m learning a new skill.  I can remember the days before the internet and email.  Perhaps I need a grandchild here to help me set this up, but I’m going to do this on my own.  I’ll learn more through trial and error.  This won’t be perfect this time and maybe not for many posts to come, but I’m thrilled to set out on a new adventure and to see the possibilities of connecting with the world in a new way.

Don’t worry if the tabs don’t work or the photos aren’t great….I won’t worry about it either right now.  Just know I’m learning a new skill and am proud to just be trying.

As my skills improve, I hope to share my love of fiber art and perhaps inspire more creativity in the world.  Thanks for being patient!

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