Birthday Blanket Raffel

I’ve finished the Birthday Blanket and am ready to raffle it off for charity!

If you’d like the chance to win a handwoven (by me!) king-sized, mostly wool, blanket. All you need do is donate money directly to Doctors Without Borders and then email me and tell me the amount that you donated. There is no minimum donation required; give what you can. One entry per person. On February 19th, I’ll randomly select a winner from all of the entrants and mail the blanket to them.

Birthday Blanket Hem

If you’d like to see the blanket in person, I’ll have it in the rotunda at Madrona Winter Retreat in Tacoma on Friday (2/15) and Saturday (2/16). I don’t have a booth or any formal support, so just look for the woman spinning on a Pocket Wheel with a ginormous folded blanket next to her.

The blanket is delightfully cozy. I used Highlands Shetland in Black Cherry as the weft and it became lofty and soft once washed and brushed. The other yarns are mostly-ish wool. They range from hand-spun silk and cashmere, to alpaca, to acrylic, to various types of wool. They were sent in by people all over the U.S., and some overseas. Much of it is handspun, including some of my first yarn, a lovely three-ply by Brenda Dayne, and some singles yarn spun by my son Kai when he was three years old.

The binding is recycled silk from old shirts. I folded it over as in a quilt binding and hand-stitched it on. This blanket is full of intention and love. It’s light enough for three-season use in most parts of the United States. And it’s a generous king size. If you have a smaller bed you can probably fold it in half and use it. Here’s what it looks like on my king-sized bed.

It’s been a long time since the project started, so let me restate what this is. When I was 39, for my 40th birthday I asked that people would send me 40 yards of a yarn that represented them. My plan was to take their warp yarns, weave it off with a weft that represents me, and have a wonderful reminder of all the people in my life who encouraged and supported me.

I got yarns from WeaveCast listeners, WeaveZine readers, friends, family. I was heart warmed by the amount of yarn that came in. I had a birthday party / warping party in which people, both weavers and not, helped me wind 21-yard warps. The plan was that I’d weave off two king-sized blankets. One to become my bedspread, and the other to raffle off to charity to support Doctors Without Borders.

Then life happened, or rather life and fear. Or if I’m completely honest, mostly fear.

I hate to disappoint people, and ironically, that often leads me into doing exactly that. Fear that what I create won’t be good enough can paralyze me.

So the fact that this blanket is finally finished, and that I’m posting it here is a triumph of sorts. A slow, painful triumph over eight years of fear and exhaustion.

I’m trying to learn from this experience how I can get out of my own way when working on big projects. Some of the things that made this one hard were:

  • Being afraid of failing, of disappointing others.
  • Fearing the technical challenge of weaving a warp with so many different yarns, each with different shrinkages.
  • Fearing my new-to-me AVL loom, with all its unknown complexity.
  • Moving house, and being afraid to re-assemble my loom.
  • Working insanely long hours at Amazon and coming home too exhausted to think.
  • Having a breakdown from overwork and getting diagnosed with a chronic condition.
  • Looking away from the project because it had been sitting idle too long, and I was embarrassed it wasn’t done. (repeat endlessly)
  • Avoiding the project while writing a book.
  • Avoiding the project while working at Google.
  • Finishing and then being too embarrassed to write this post or ask for help getting the word out about the raffle.

Through all of this, however, I never forgot the project. I felt that I owed finishing it to the folks who’d sent me yarn. Slowly, quietly, I worked on it. Not as often as I could, not as frequently as I should. Now it is finally done, and I’ve gathered up the courage to write this post.

The emotion I’m feeling is some combination of pride at never giving up, embarrassment at how long it took, and relief that I can finally get this out into the world and let it go.

The blanket is lovely. Like me, it’s imperfect. It was created with love and intention. I hope the person who wins it enjoys it.


I was recently interviewed about my work and Inventive Weaving on episode 176 of the Craftsanity podcast.

If you want to know more about the story behind the book, give it a listen. It’s a great way to pass the time while threading a loom, which is what I was doing when I played it.

It was tremendous fun chatting with Jennifer Ackerman-Haywood on the phone, and it reminded me how much I loved talking to other artists when I was producing Weavecast.

So much so that I’ve revamped the Weavecast website, separating it out from the now-archival WeaveZine site.

I also plan to produce new episodes, not at the monthly cadence I did before. But quarterly.

In other publication news, I recently heard from my editor at Storey that Inventive Weaving is going into a second printing! That means people are finding and enjoying the book. A big thank you to everyone who’s reading the book and recommending it to friends.

After spending years weaving and writing for a book, it’s great to have that book find its audience.

Happy Weaving!

Madrona 2012: A Very Fine Birthday

Last year, my birthday sucked. I was saying a final goodbye to my dreams of making a living in the fiber arts. It was poignant, because I spent the whole weekend teaching at Madrona, a wonderful fiber conference, surrounded by everything I was giving up. The day after Madrona, I would start full-time work again. A daunting prospect after being self-employed for ten years. My husband was sick and couldn’t be with me. I felt like an utter failure and spent the evening sobbing in my hotel room.

This year was the antidote to last year. I taught at Madrona again, with a room full of lovely women who shared my passion for things that glow and blink. It was a mellow and peaceful class. They gave me permission to blog about derby and non-weaving things. I don’t have to words to explain why that was important (or rather, I do, but it would take about 10,000 of them) but it was huge to me. I’m an eclectic, shy, multi-faceted person, and it’s hard for folks like me to feel 100% accepted, and in that moment, I did.

I had lunch with a friend and mentor, and that was a wonderful treat.

Class continued. We wove. Things lit up. We turned off the lights and there were moments of illuminated beauty. I had a great time, and I hope they did as well.

Eric and Kai came down that evening and injected some family pack bonding into the evening. We ate Mexican food, tussled on the bed, made bad jokes, and I fell exhausted into bed and slept well.

The next day, my actual birthday, I spent taking a class with my favorite tapestry weaver in the whole wide world: Sarah Swett. (I can say this only because I consider Mary Zicafoose a rug weaver.) Sarah combines both being a hoot-and-a-holler as a person with amazing technical skill that takes my breath away. She doesn’t teach often and I consider myself lucky to have gotten into her class.

We wove tapestry bags. Tapestry is something that makes my brain hurt. I’d taken a class with James Koehler, and was blown away by his mastery and technique. But his brain worked very differently than mine, and as soon as I stepped away from his class, his teaching fell right out of my head. Sarah’s teaching settled into my brain like a faithful dog and curled right around my cerebellum. I came away from the class with an enthusiasm for tapestry and a belief that I might actually be able to weave a tapestry I was happy with one day.


Oh, and Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (aka: the yarn harlot) is considering taking up an affair with a bad-boy loom. A loom with its brake smack in the center of the warp. With a tricky warp tensioning system that is just waiting to unspool her warp all over the floor. A handsome fellow, dark and mellowed with age, something rare and fine, but temperamental… I worry for her weaving adventures on it. Though I suspect a swat team of Canadian weavers is likely to descend on her if things get out of hand.