What’s in a Name?

How would you name a group, that on any given day, one could be knitting or crocheting…
…or weaving
…or making an art quilt
…or making a mixed media piece using all this fun stuff?

Once upon a time, there was a group of women.  It was a very large group with a common interest in learning how to make a quilt.  They got together regularly to learn new skills, to bemoan failures and to celebrate successes. website load testing tools .  Once a year, they displayed their best work in the town’s library.  They called themselves the Scrapbaggers.  That was years and years ago.

When I joined the group, there were about twelve of us.  If asked what we did, most of us would still have answered that “we make quilts”, but would probably further qualify that answer a bit by adding, “we make ‘art quilts'”.  Meetings were still about learning new skills, sharing work and things discovered, and maybe, most importantly, critiquing work in progress when asked, all over some great coffee and cake.  We still had the annual exhibit of our work in the library; we started calling ourselves Scrapbagger Art Quilters; or, Scraps, for short.

For some sad reasons and some other better ones, our group got smaller and smaller.  At one point, there were only six of us who could come regularly to the weekly meetings.  If one or two couldn’t make it, they would be dearly missed or the meeting would be cancelled.   At this point, though, if asked, all of us would have described ourselves as “fiber artists”.  (What’s the difference?  Think of “art quilts” as a sub-set of “fiber arts”.)  It seemed to be just a small leap given how we saw ourselves at that point to invite others interested in “fiber” to join our group.  Today, we are a pretty diverse group which includes several knitters, a couple of weavers, and a mixed-media artist or two.  All of us are enjoying the expanded interests of the group.  From one meeting to the next, we never know what someone might bring to share.  Each of us is finding  new techniques to learn and to incorporate in our own work.   Everyone’s art is all the better for it.  Our annual exhibit at the library is even more exciting.  We still call ourselves Scraps.

But, change is afoot.  There is a general feeling that our name no longer fits what we do, or how we see ourselves and our work.  This is not a new discussion.  It has been ongoing, in a general way for a long while, but most especially, each year when it is time to make the poster for our annual show.  It is not September, yet,  but we are talking about it again.

Last Friday, over tea and cake (on a field trip to visit a gallery in Millerton, New York), Chris (one of our weavers) suggested that maybe we should start with a “mission statement” first, and then, a name might naturally follow (a truly good idea, and ever hopeful).  Well, true to form, there was even some discussion questioning the “mission” part…we amended it, sort of, to an “Artists’ (note the plural) Statement”…sort of…The problem, of course, is that words connote different things to different people…and, not always in a positive way…I have mentioned that we are a diverse group, didn’t I?  (Sometimes, I think “scrappy” is pretty accurate(!) in a good way, of course).

So, here is my stab at a statement:

We are a group of artists who create a diverse range of work, using fabrics, threads and yarns, whether they be sewn, stitched, and/or woven; which are glued, fused, and/or secured, the old-fashioned way, with a needle and/or needles.  We enjoy being the teacher, sharing the good things we have discovered , as well as the student, learning new skills that might enrich our work.  To each other, we give thoughtful critiques when asked and encouragement when needed.  Each of us might be in a different place in our art, but all are enjoying the journey.  Please pass the cake.

And, here is a stab at some names (with commentary…sorry)

For those who don’t mind the word “fiber” (that is not me, fiber makes me think of oat bran and stuff you eat to “get things moving” as my grandmother used to say…had to say it, I really don’t want to be a “fiber” anything…but, trying to be open-minded:

FIBER MINE      (play on words, maybe too subtle)


FOOLS FOR FIBER    (maybe not sounding serious enough)

FIBER BEE    (I like the connection back to our roots, but not to the insect…)


For those seeking a name that relates to the traditional thoughts of sewing circles, and friends, supporting each other and working together towards common goals:

STITCH SISTERS   or maybe, even better:



STITCH WITCHES    (connotation problems, again, maybe…)

For those thinking a little humor and a smile in a name is a good thing:









WANDERING THREADS, WONDERING WOMEN  (as opposed to Wandering Women,   and Wondering Threads, made you smile, right?)

For those wanting a more general, “noun-like” name…all that flying and spinning can be exhausting!





Post Script:  That’s it.  That’s my list.  And that said, I have to say, that I may be the only one, but I still like SCRAPS best.  I like that it has a history of women getting together to show their stuff and make lifelong friends.  I like that even as different as the things we make are, we ALL have scraps.  (Finding a name that addresses all our tools and techniques seems impossible–someone is bound to feel not included–maybe, important, maybe not.)  And, speaking of scraps, I like that once we have made the “big idea” piece of art, that it is often, the art that is made out of the leftovers, the scraps, that is the more interesting, the most engaging, and just plain fun.  And, I like thinking of us as each being a bit “scrappy” when called upon to express an opinion or a challenging point of view.



Down the Rabbit Hole



So, it started out innocently enough.  Jame, home for the holidays, was hunting for his printer trays…they should have been in his closet, of course.  Well, MAYBE they were there for the first five or six years after he left home…but “finders, keepers” does kick in around here sooner or later.  We found them!  Perched on the quilt tops in MY closet…I took pity on him (all efforts to decorate should be encouraged, right?) and dumped my rubber stamps (so neatly arranged in all those wonderful cubbyholes)…which caused a landslide of the above-mentioned quilt tops along with the rest of the stuff in the already precarious “pile”.  UGH.  I  just left the mess on the floor to be picked up after the holidays.  (I was guessing that it would NOT be a quick fix.)

Once back home, I kept walking past that mess as I dealt with the more pressing post-holiday ones.  Ever noticed how it is so much more fun to decorate than it is to undo it?  To FINALLY silence that whiny inner shrew nagging me to  “just pick it up”, I finally did…THAT took me about five minutes…but one thing lead to another…and for the past few days I have been on an adventure, excavating (an oddly accurate descriptive verb) my fabric closet.

My fabric lives on two shelves in a closet in a room that most would use as a bedroom.  It has never been that.  Back in the day, we called it Legoland.  We didn’t have any furniture for the room, so it was a grand space to just dump all those blocks.  (Just remembering that sound still makes me cringe!)  At a certain point, an imaginary line was drawn down the middle, and one half of the room was then populated with Playmobil…the house, the vehicles, the school, the farm…occasionally the space aliens would attend school…or land on the roof…visit with the pirates…you get the idea.  It is now my “paper” studio (another story), but the room also has the only closet for my “stuff”.  My actual studio HAS NO CLOSET!!!

Back to the “rabbit hole”.  Under the avalanche of quilt tops was all the fabric that I had dyed earlier in the fall.  Gorgeous stuff. I treated myself to an hour or so of sorting and folding, and finally, stashed all away in a large plastic bin.  Under those was a pile of light-colored “found fabrics” awaiting their turn to become beautiful in my next dyeing marathon.  Those got sorted, folded and stashed into a huge plastic tote.  (I better do some dyeing soon!)  Since I was “on a roll” and didn’t need my bed to sleep in yet, I decided that I might as well pull out the rest of my fabrics (all, oh, so neatly arranged by color) to see if there were any that I might be ready to give up.  Such a virtuous new year’s activity, right?

Well, I pulled them out, purged some, re-stacked them and was about to put them back on the shelves, when I had a “wait a minute!” kind of a moment. Aha! I looked at my hand-dyed fabrics, and my hand-printed ones there in the bin; I looked at those empty shelves… I slipped those great fabrics (separated by color, of course!) out of the bin and put THEM on my shelf.  Then, I remembered those ikats I had stashed in the armoire, along with those hand-marbled pieces, and the raw silks, and then, there were the great vintage Indonesian prints from the flea market, and the silk tie remnants…and, those batiks in the other bin…needless to say, it has been a long two days, but, my fabric shelves are looking pretty inviting.  I knew I had some great fabrics; I just didn’t know I had so many great fabrics!  Once I put them all in one place, they just started talking to each other.  I hope they are still talking by the time I get the rest of the mess cleaned up (it grew) so I can get back to work!


Scarf? or Not?

ps: those little horizontal stitches are correct!  and I don’t like them, hence, this entry:

This is not a photo of my “real” scarf…it is more like a colorful stand-in (just to prove that I can do it).  The truth is that I tortured my “real” yarns (the two on the right: that subtly variegated green and the more vibrant blue/purple) knitting and “unknitting”, while trying to follow the directions for Stephen West’s Spectra scarf (www.ravelry.com).  Things got so bad that I rewound both balls of yarn so I could start fresh from the other ends!   Guess it is not news that I am not a knitter!

The Backstory:  A month or so ago, a friend brought a truly lovely scarf that she had just finished to our weekly Scraps meeting.  It was supple, gently ruffled, and sophisticatedly colored…she swore it was simple to make.  I loved it.  A few weeks later, she brought in another version…”so simple, so lovely”.  I wanted one! or two! even better, one in every color.  Understand, I have knitted things in the past…but, not by following written instructions…not a prayer or a clue there.   And, I generally hold my breath from start to finish, hoping I don’t drop a stitch, because at that point my only option (and I have done this) is to tear it all out and to start again.  Needless to say, knitting has never been a zen activity for me.

I downloaded the pattern (a first) and shopped for yarn (always the very best part).  Of course, I couldn’t find the yarns called for, but I made what seemed to be good choices (with not much help in the shops…don’t ask)  I unearthed my “collection” of vintage needles, found just the ones, sat down and, full of optimism (the directions were only about 20 lines long), cast on my 40 stitches.  To say that I was defeated by “short rows” isn’t exactly accurate.  With lots of coaching (my knitter daughter was home for the holidays) and many fresh starts, I finally did “get” the pattern.  See the proof in the photo!!!

That said, I think I am not going to make this scarf.  WHY?  Well, here is the interesting part:  I am not sure, and I still might change my mind (I love that scarf).  The deal breaker is probably the last line in the instructions: “repeat rows 1 to 14, 85 times”.  Could I do that? without a single mistake, a yarn not carried over…or, totally missed (what then?)  Have you ever tried tearing out short rows?…it gets sticky very quickly.  Believe me, I know this.

The truly surprising thing here is that I am ok with letting it go.  I did finally get it right; more than once, even.  I could get it right for 85 more times (maybe).    Here’s the thing:  As I was knitting, I was thinking how easily the beauty of this design could be translated into pieced hand-dyed silks (have a lot of those), or into felted wools (those wedge insets could be lovely, variegated from edge to edge), or, better yet… I have figured out a way to crochet this scarf.  Think about it: no long (or short) rows to be ripped and re-loaded, holding my breath the entire time, lest a stitch gets dropped or, heaven forbid “unwrapped”…eek.  No odd bleeps here and there from wrapped stitches and carried yarn (see photo)…just a blissful one stitch, and therefore, a “one mistake at a time”, kind of activity…sounds somewhat relaxing to me…And did I mention that since it seems  I didn’t buy quite the right kind of variegated yarn (the color transitions are way too short to take advantage of the real charm of the pattern), I can go do that fun part again: yarn shopping?  Undecided…but thinking about it…