Thursday, January 15, 2015

I am Unusually Coordinated Today

The weather has been unusually cold in the northern Shenandoah Valley of Virginia for the last two weeks.  We live in a 1905 farmhouse with a woodstove for our primary heat, and while we have done many things to help our house heat more efficiently in the winter months, when it gets down into the single digits we spend much of our time at home in the living room near our beloved Vermont Castings Vigilant.  Idgy is demonstrating her preferred nap location.

Today, the temperature will finally get above freezing and the sun is shining again.  I went to my closet and chose an orange corduroy dress to wear, and then I had a look at my vests.  I pulled out a vest to go with my dress that I have never worn before - I inherited it from my mother-in-law, Beryl Smith Dunning, after she passed away last year. 

Beryl's friend Marjorie Manilow made this yo-yo appliqued vest for Beryl as a gift many years ago.  I got to meet Marjorie at my in-law's 50th wedding anniversary in 1990 and we began an occasional correspondence as we both like to make things with thread and cloth.  Marjorie lives in Wales and is a wonderfully creative fiber artist.  Over the years she has sent me photos of her Twelve Days of Christmas Hat Series and the quilted pieces she has made using scraps of woven Welsh Wool coats.  I haven't heard from her in many years now but we are sending out an Annual Letter this year after a lapse of ten years so I am hoping to hear from some old friends soon, including Marjorie.

When I got to the coat closet on my way out the door to work, I grabbed my most recent thrift store acquisition - a beautiful, bright Harris Tweed women's coat that is a perfect match for the dress.

I started finding these Harris Tweed coats about twenty years ago in local thrift stores and I have never been able to pass one up.  As a weaver, the cloth is wonderful and precious and as an added bonus, many of the coats fit me.  I teach a weaving class on District Checks and Tweeds and my coat collection is a terrific addition to the class.  My daughter Hannah took two of these coats with her when she attended college in western Massachusetts, a perfect climate for a good wool tweed!  Hannah chose a great orange & purple houndstooth and a bright green tweed.  She wore out the linings and the hems came unstitched, but the tweed will last a long, long time.

 This second photo of the cloth will show you weavers a little more detail - my iPhone takes better close ups than my iPad2 - but the color is not as true.  The purple color is more dominant in the photo than in real life.  Can you see the colors of the individual threads?  The warp threads are a burnt orange and a medium brown and they go O O B O O B B B.  The weft threads are 4 picks of an orangey red and 4 picks of a magenta purple and the weave structure is a 2/2 twill.  You can see the strong diagonal lines in this cloth.  Many of the other women's coats have a variation of a broken twill.

I started documenting the cloth in my coat collection a few years ago: photographing the tailoring details and the cloth itself and writing up weaving drafts for the color & weave twill patterns.  The color selections are simply brilliant and the sequence of colored yarns along with the twill weave structure creates a stunning fabric.  I have learned most of what I know about traditional tweed from examining the fabric of many, many coats and sport jackets, and this cloth continues to fascinate me.

Next week: studying Aran sweater design!

p.s. I cut my hair.


Laura Fry said...

What fun. You look great. :)

Mamacita said...

I happen to own one of your thrift store finds -one that you brought to our guild class! I love it! I am thrilled that you are blogging more frequently - I find your stories fun and interesting!

Dianne Quimby said...

I'd like to connect with you regarding a workshop opportunity on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. Please email me at so I can email you specifics. Thanks!