Her Milkshake

It brings all the boys to the yard. The female Polyphemus moth that hatched out Sunday at DFW Fiber Fest was mated last night.

To ensure that I get eggs for the next generation, I make a slip-knot leash out of silk sewing thread and tie it around the base of her wings, so that it doesn’t bother her as she moves. I tie the other end to a spring clip. I hide her in a bush (in this case, a Japanese maple) and she uses a pheromone to attract nearby males. They will fly up to 5 miles to find her, based solely on scent. In a natural state, they will stay attached through the following day, and then part ways at dusk. She will start flying around laying her eggs (usually around 200) and he will fly off to find another mate. If I’m wanting to rear the eggs, I will put her into a brown paper lunch bag and fold down the top; she will lay eggs inside the bag, and I’ll collect them by tearing up the bag into little pieces with the glued-down eggs attached. I often do half-and-half — she lays half the eggs in the bag for me, and I let her go to fly around and give the other half to the woods.

Butterflies make silk too.

A thing I didn’t know until I started doing more and more research about silk: butterfly caterpillars make silk too.

Many of them don’t make much silk – it’s often just a little tuft, a few yards total – but it’s critically important to their life cycle. Most of the time, silk is used to make a small pad which attaches to a surface – anything from a twig to a leaf to a patio chair – where the caterpillar is going to pupate.  Many, like some swallowtails, also make a “lasso” which helps keep the pupa in position against its substrate.

This is the hatched-out chrysalis of a Gulf fritillary, Agraulis vanillae, from my backyard  passionflower patch. The silk pad attached it to the garden chair.


Marguerite’s Trim



I’ve been weaving some. It feels good. I wanted to do something with a little more “OMG” factor than the plain black and white cotton I’ve been doing the past few warps, so I went for some silk sewing thread ribbon. The pattern is on 25 tablets, plus 3 tablets of plain border on either side. The pattern is worked in double-face technique, with all the tablets threaded the same – two holes carrying the copper thread, two carrying the silver. The finished trim is just over half an inch wide, yielding an effective density of about 250 EPI (ends per inch.)

I graphed out a chart for this trim for a dress a friend of mine in the SCA made back in the early nineties. It’s based on a portrait of Marguerite de Valois by François Clouet.

Looking at the portrait, the original trim is probably either couched cord, or trim of couched tiny beads. Either way, it rendered really well into tablet weaving graph.



The silk I’m using for this is a very glossy machine embroidery thread. I like low-twist, high-sheen thread for ribbons like this; they are supple and glossy, more so than regular garment sewing threads. This is the band before a wash and a hard steam press; you can see how much the silk flattened out in the first picture.


A turn-of-the-seventeenth century book on sericulture, translated into English by Nicholas Geffe, refers to the”glosse wherein consisteth the chiefest bewtie of the silke.” Still photos just don’t capture it, you have to see it move. Depending on your browser, this might be a moving image.


Rainbow bracelet

I saw another band weaver’s bracelets on Facebook, and got intrigued with the concept. This is the first result. The original ribbon was from years ago (decades, actually!) and is Gutermann polyester button thread that I had made for an SCA Iris ribbon; I had woven off the remainder of the warp just to have. I’ve always thought it was pretty, but didn’t have any real project for it. I saw it in my stash of woven bands, and thought, “This could be some seriously crafty homo bling.”


This is one of those projects that had a lot of “opportunities for learning” – where you aren’t sure how to proceed, and you screw up in interesting ways, but once you’ve un-superglued your fingers from the table, you have learned a valuable lesson, and you’ll do it differently next time. The clasp is magnetic, I got them from Amazon. Also, single-use packets of SuperGlue are AWESOME; one tiny tube did the whole thing, and there was no sad half-empty tube sitting in the drawer getting crusty afterward.


I used a piece of the “Fuck That B.S” sampler as the backing. I figured it was apt, and it was the right width. It gives the finished project a lot more heft, and it protects the gold threads from getting sweaty and/or snagged. The thickness of the band, however, meant that there was a significant difference in diameter between the inside and the outside once it was done. What it means in practical terms, is that the piece won’t lie flat. It buckles. Which is fine – it’s not meant to be flat, it’s meant to go around a wrist, and it’s more important for it to lie smoothly on the curve. But for the next one, there will be some curved pressing involved before the stitching, and careful distribution of that diameter difference to make sure that it’s even. Also, my stitches show up a LOT more in photos, so next time I’ll stitch a little more carefully.


This is the ribbon I started with. I wove it some time in the late nineties.

Notes for next time: Press the ribbon round.  Stitch in the ditch between threads, even if whipping is faster. Be careful where the SuperGlue goes.

Special lighting

I got this shot of a long-tailed skipper (Urbanus proteus) a couple of weekends ago, at my friend Dale Clark’s butterfly farm. He does an open house every fall, catching the migrating monarchs as they float through his giant yard planted with nectar and host plants. I love the way the light strikes this butterfly’s head and shoulders – it’s almost as if he had a special spotlight that followed him around. I’ve known people like that – wherever they are, they appear slightly brighter than the surrounding area. I think it’s partly an innate thing, and partly an out-pouring of energy – attitude, spirit, whatever you want to call it.

I feel like I do it sometimes. I can feel it, when the light is on me – and I feel it even more when I step wrong and I’m out of it. It’s a feeling of alignment, like you’re in the right place and you’re saying the right lines and the show’s going well. It feels like I’m harmonizing, like I’m in tune.

Lately, I’ve been out of it a lot. I’m trying; I get bits of it. Occasional moments.

I’ve been dreaming a lot, and working on exploring my dreams; this always helps me connect.




Class for the Board


Last weekend, I taught a class for the DFW Fiber Fest Board. Everybody had a loom, and I loved how they looked lined up on the table!

Getting a Sample of my Mojo Back


This past weekend was the DFW Fiber Fest. I’ve been on the board of this annual event for three years now; it’s a LOT of work, but it’s also a really great reminder of the fantastic fiber arts community, and the power of getting together to do creative things with string. We hire both local and national instructors, and we draw over sixty vendors from the region and across the country.

I had gotten cotton yarn a few months ago to weave a sampler, but just hadn’t ever gotten around to it. I finally sat down and warped the loom on Friday during the event, and sat and wove, and talked to people about weaving, and showed people how the weaving worked, until I finally finished it on Saturday. It was good to visit with everybody, and it was satisfying and pleasing to weave again.

I normally don’t title “pieces” of my weaving, unless there’s something going into a show that needs a title. A sampler, in particular, wouldn’t get a title – by its very nature, a sampler is a process piece, a test, a recapitulation of technique and pattern. But I decided that because of the unique situation, and the fact that it’s more of a way of brushing off my weaving skills, than a set of pattern sketches, this piece deserves a title. I’m calling it, “Fuck That B.S.” Because it’s bullshit to let somebody stomp on your joy, and it’s bullshit to doubt your worth because of petty things people say, and I just don’t need that kind of bullshit in my life any more.

Used to do

I woke up this morning with sad thoughts… thinking about when to go from “I do these cool things,” to “I used to do these cool things.” My feet hurt so I can’t dance. I haven’t woven anything in years; there has been a single project since 2013, and that one was like sleepwalking. I haven’t made soap, drawn anything noteworthy, sewn a costume, made silk. I’m wondering if I’ll raise silkworms this year, or if that will go into the pile of things I used to do. I contemplate tearing out the roses and passionflowers, and letting the yard go back to grass, or just letting it grow up like a jungle.

I know that some of this is a natural result of getting older, but I feel like I’m tottering around in two rooms of a mansion, with many rooms locked up and the once-beautiful furniture under sheets.

The embroidery project that I did last year gave me a burst of energy, and I’m hoping that I can jump-start the creative engine somehow… but it’s becoming, more and more, the creative life of somebody I used to be.

Heather and the Gaslight

For the first time in a long time, I bought cotton to warp my loom. I had some in different weights and colors (OK, I have LOTS…) but what I wanted, what I need to work through, is basic black and white. A particular set of variations… and it really needs to be 10/2, so that it looks elegant and not chunky. I’m wanting to get my loom back to working, and my hands back to making things, and I have to untangle some mess in my head. A sampler is what I need; it’s like running scales for a singer, or doing basic floor exercises for a gymnast. It centers you, helps you blow out the cobwebs, prepares your mind and your hands to tackle more serious work.



As I mentioned in a post a few weeks ago, back in 2013 I got knocked off kilter really badly by a couple of discussions. One of them was in person, and it put me in a bad emotional place. The second one was in an online forum, and while it wasn’t nearly as intense, it was a classic gaslighting situation – I started out feeling just insecure, and ended up questioning things that I knew, and digging through my old records trying to find evidence of how and when things happened… and not finding enough to ease my mind. It seriously made me question my sanity at some points. It definitely made me doubt my memory and my internal narrative of how I learned to do the things I do, what I learned and what I figured out.

A Mean Girl in an online forum, we’ll call her Heather, took a swipe at me which implied that one of my basic classes, which I had developed through years of work and refinement, was teaching another teacher’s whole class without giving appropriate credit. It was the kind of thing that would have been a petty jab, in a private message… but in a public forum, it undermined my authority as a teacher and my reputation as a decent person. In a butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-mah-mouth kind of way, she was calling me a liar and a thief. It was like one member of the Junior League leaning across the table and loudly stage-whispering to another member where everybody can hear, “You know, you can hardly even tell her chicken salad is from Walmart.”

So I started digging, trying to find any evidence, in old handouts and former students, to show that I had come by the information I was teaching from other sources. For quite a long time, I couldn’t find it. I had been teaching this information for a lot of years, starting in the late nineties, but I couldn’t find a handout with a photo from that far back. I was digging through the “transferred from old computer” file on my computers, because the computers of the 1990’s had died and been buried and forgotten, and my records weren’t all that great. I was trying to find old email archives that have disappeared from the Web… and not even archive.org could retrieve them. I apologized to Sara, the teacher who had published the information I was accused of appropriating, and I kept digging. Did I read an article of hers somewhere, and incorporate it into my class plan without remembering it? It’s like trying to remember if you wrote a song from scratch, or if it’s built around a snatch of music you heard at a park. It made my memory seem fuzzy and untrustworthy.

I exchanged a series of emotional emails with Sara. She started using a this set of patterns in 2004. I finally found a handout of mine from 2000, using the same pattern, and I eventually located and conversed by email with Robert Schweitzer, from whom I had gotten many of my formative tablet weaving ideas back in the 1990’s, back when the TWIST email list was the TWINE forum, on a Majordomo server where you had to communicate with the computer running it using text commands. I sorted out my timeline on teaching, and finally got to a point where I feel secure about what happened when, and whose work informed my teaching style. I feel like I’ve got my history straight, the genealogy of my craft is clarified, and I know that what I am teaching, I came by honestly. Sara and I are cool. Robert and I are cool. Heather and I aren’t friends – I mostly try to stay out of her way and do my best to believe that she acted out of some kind of misplaced good intention, instead of just being a bitch. I honestly think that it’s mostly just convergent evolution in action – multiple people using similar progressions because they’re logical and make sense for skill-building and progressive understanding.

basic-class-samplerThis is the sampler from my basics class – the one that started all the noise. I’m really proud of it, and I think that it teaches the basics in a way that engages students and builds skill upon skill. And I’m grateful for all the people whose teaching helped to shape my own, and I’m secure in my own skill and knowledge.


This is from a few years back. In 2011, our nonprofit organization had philanthropists Kern and Marnie Wildenthal on our Legacy Advisory Board.


I sent the printers a .doc file; they are supposed to pull the names out of it as text, and set them into the letterhead. This is from the version I sent:




and this is what the printers sent back. kem

Actually seeing the name “Kern” mis-kerned made my geeky little heart skip a beat.


What made me think of this, and go back to dig it up, was finding a BoingBoing post about this site that glorifies the accidental joys of Keming.