Stretching my abilities to the max

I recently spent a week at Vävstuga School of Weaving, working on a long warp in 16/2 cotton. The structures are Monks’ Belt and turned Monks’ Belt. With these two structures, you can weave symmetric borders on all four sides of the cloth, although the treadling of each is far from symmetric.

It took me a very long day to thread the warp. 16/2 doesn’t have much weight and the threads stick together unmercifully. I was using an Ideal loom for the first time, and have come to the conclusion that it is less than Ideal for me. I couldn’t find a comfortable compromise that worked with my new glasses and my old back. I needed sit further back, but the Ideal is a shallow loom. I could have enjoyed more height at the breast beam and more room underneath to tie up, but the Ideal is a short little loom. I muddled through the threading on Tuesday, the sleying and tie ups on Wednesday, and seriously debated whether I would give up weaving for good on Wednesday night. I didn’t.  A good night’s sleep and some help from the weaving fairies (Thanks, Becky) and I was throwing the shuttle quite happily on Thursday.

I have learned something from the experience.  Individual threads of 16/2 are only visible to me when they are in pale colors and under very bright lights (hello, rainy weather!) I also can’t sit at the loom and pound through tasks for twelve hours with minimal breaks.  I think my limit is 4 hours per day, with frequent tea breaks. On the plus side, I have never had such beautiful selvedges in 16/1 linen, and I seem to be able to throw a shuttle just fine with my left hand. I didn’t have to use a temple; there was no need. I can also manage a profile draft just fine, with only a couple penciled notes to remind me what the notation means.

I’m not quitting weaving anytime soon..

I love to weave in community; something about the presence of other weavers inspires me and drives me to persevere. I will have to pick my community projects more carefully, and only use pale-colored warp, and narrow width. I will also have to pace myself and take enough tea breaks. Apparently, I can go full bore on weaving the pattern, because I can see that with my glasses and understand that with my brain.  Perhaps rosepath and smålandsväv would be fun. Perhaps an independent study of each, in my own studio, would be a good place to start.

See what I wove? I finished two table squares, each a half-meter in length and width. To support the turned borders, which run parallel with the selvedges, every pick is treadled in pattern. Four treadles are used to create the two blocks. The horizontal borders use two shuttles, and all six treadles. It’s clever how it all comes together.

At home in my studio, I’m threading the shaft drawloom for large table squares (or small tablecloths–It depends on how you consider 1.10 meters in width). I can see it just fine, as it is cottolin in wide stripes of white and unbleached linen color. I’m nearly done with the pattern heddles and will do something simple, like broken twill, for the ground heddles. The look will be rustic and bold, with a tow linen weft.

I”m also working on a wool scarf I designed, I’m really into simple weaves made rich through color play. There are six colors of thread in the Monks’ Belt pictured above. The scarf features four colors. More on that soon…

A parting thought.  I am a very seasonal person. Winter isn’t the time of year I weave. I plan and I shovel snow. I dream by the fire and I shiver when I venture too far from it. Spring is when I get creative, using the community of weavers to help me ignite my own well-banked creative fires. It’s an urgent time of creativity, before summer’s heat wilts me. I wonder what I can accomplish before July?

thus and sew

Life is good. I am relearning to type, but still am slow and mistake prone. Really, I’d rather be weaving, sewing or painting. Sewing? Where did that come from? I haven’t made many clothes for at least 10 years. Perhaps it came from trying to get more in tune with my body and its needs.

I am losing weight. I knew I couldn’t sustain a healthy diet for its own sake. It’s just too preachy and self-righteous and too much of that makes me want to eat cake. But, I have a streak of vanity, not to mention stubbornness (ya think?) and focusing on getting thin seems to appeal to that, with no self-righteousness. I refuse to demonize any food group, even cake, and I have no patience for fad diets. I believe in beginning as you plan to go on. So, I’m just eating less of everything, and using cake, or in my case, cinnamon buns, as a major major reward. Lose 20 pounds? Give the girl a cinnamon bun! Just a small one. I’ve lost the better part of 60 pounds this way. The cinnamon buns were memorable. Pizza, just a small slice, also seems to work as a reward for much hard dieting.

But, back to sewing. I have come back to a love of embroidery and the slow stitching movement. I am making some pieces to work with my Gudrun Sjoden wardrobe, and there are no deadlines or rules. I am smitten with the work of Natalie Chanin of Alabama Chanin, but have to make it my own. Her colors are wrong for me, and some of the design stencils look like they are for draperies rather than clothing. I am keeping the jersey knit, exposed seams, rough stitching and knots on the outside. I am not using as many beads. They don’t go with my Hilltowns lifestyle.

Here’s a small purse I am making to celebrate earth day. The cotton fabric is from my rag bin, a bit of a dyeing mishap. Love the knots on the front.

This bit below is a swatch; I am what-iffing my way along. It will be something, someday. I still think the pattern looks like it belongs on the draperies. I won’t use that stencil very much. What I did here was stencil the fabric, pen in some outlines, and then sew inside the motifs. I could cut away the stencilled motifs, as above. Or I could cut away the background, but it makes no sense because the backing fabric is just the same thing.That’s for another swatch, another what-if. And it still looks like draperies.

emerging and evolving

Inbolc has come and gone, leaving me on the path toward spring. Yes, I know it’s only February, and it’s snowing now, but I’m still turning toward the light in of Spring. I enjoyed the traditional cheese and bread on the holiday, well it was a little bit of cheese, mostly the thought of bread, and a large salad. This is the price I pay for being alive. I’ll take it.

Those who follow the old ways seem to spend a lot of time cleaning in preparation for holidays. Spring cleaning is begun! It’s traditional to renew one’s promises to the path and to oneself, it’s traditional to make the robes, or clean the old ones, and my family, goodness knows why, it’s traditional to clean the kitchen waste basket. I’m done all these things, turned out my entire closet and donated a lot of things that I’ll never wear again. I am so tired of baggy black clothing. I had to buy a new pair of yoga pants as mine were inclined to do the downward dog at the most inopportune times. They are electric blue, in keeping with my renewed love of color.

Time in the studio has been a bit short. I still get tired easily, the kind of sudden tired like hitting a wall. One minute I’m fine, the next minute I’ve got to go sleep for 10 hours. Who would have thought the thinking is such hard work, but I do notice it most in challenging situations, like strange roads or crowds, just keeping track of everyday things is exhausting. Still, it’s a good trade. I’ll take being alive for these little quirks make every day life interesting.

What I am doing the studio is threading the tablecloth warp through it first set of heddles. It’ll be done when it’s done.

I wish you happiness as you walk forward towards Spring and remind you as I do every year that you have everything you need for the journey. Underneath the ground, deep enough down that is not frozen, Spring is stirring and the bulbs are starting to awaken and think about pushing upward. It’s hard work, but, oh, the rewards.

To the north, we ask for resilience.
To the east, we acknowledge a new beginning.
To the south, we are reminded of the fires of striving.
To the west, we are nourished by life-giving water.

Never look back

I am not going to write a year in review post this year. It was a terrible year. First there was that horrible president, and then I had a stroke. Cause and effect? I wouldn’t be surprised.

Instead, I’d rather speculate about 2018. I don’t do resolutions, because they are joyless and remind me too much of plans written firmly in indelible ink. I prefer to be more flexible about my future. I hope to weave often in the new year, especially on the draw loom. I will keep on painting as long as it continues to amuse me, and I seem to have become a fashionista, at least as far as Gudrun Sjoden’s designs are concerned. It was time to celebrate the joy of being alive, wearing a bright and whimsical wardrobe. I thought I would would have woven it, but I honestly know I don’t have the time. That’s okay.

I still plan to be fairly subversive in the new year, making sure to give my tax savings, if I actually get any, to two progressive causes, like WAMC radio and Planned Parenthood. I certainly have no intention of spending it on big business! I hope you’ll do the same, supporting causes you hold dear. I’ve always taken a great deal of pleasure, especially in the past year, to the tax deduction for charitable giving, seeing it as a way to cheat that president’s regressive agenda by making larger contributions to charities that I’m sure he hates. Hey, I’ll take pleasure where I can.

It looks like my town may make a start on high speed Internet in the next year, and I hope we go with something that is wholly municipal-owned. With the death net neutrality, I don’t want one of those creepy Telecom companies deciding what we can access. If it’s anything like what they did with television, they will really try to dumb down the Internet and turn you into commercial watching zombies. I like the Internet quirky and individualistic as it now is. I’m sure you can get dumb stuff too, but only if you insist.

I hope to travel a bit in 2018. There’s a museum that features a lot of handwoven bands, Vesterheim. I think I’ll give it a visit. although it means going from nowhere Massachusetts to equally nowhere Iowa. I’m also tempted to go to Sweden, but I have to figure out what I want to do so I know what time of year to visit. I don’t think I’ll take a weaving class, because you can do that anywhere. I think I’d rather focus on seeing historic textiles, contemporary folk art and countryside.

There might be one thing that I would commit to writing an indelible ink. I refuse to multitask in 2018. It’s a moral weakness, and is just a little bit too much stress for me handle. There you have it!

Here’s to a better year ahead!!

 

What I wove (and knitted)in 2017

I’m not going to finish any other weaving by midnight, so here’s my output for the year.

I did a lot of samples in drawloom class. I have plans for using some of them.I’d like to use all of them in some way.

I have a bit of hemming to do, but that’s sewing, not weaving.

i am pleased with what i’ve done, and look forward to more drawloom weaving in the year to come.

Yule: Time in the dark and calm depths of the heart

The journey to Yule begins right after Samhain. Nights are growing longer and your instinct is to hibernate. Given to that instinct. Follow the spiral slowly and quietly as it turns inward. By now, you have arrived. In silence, in the deep snow, you have found peace, solitude, and silence that can only be found in the depths of the heart.

Some years, my spiral inward is fraught with distractions and I’m impatient to find the silence and hear my hearts own voice. Some years, I arrive unprepared and do not have an easy time understanding the message. I didn’t know what to expect this year. I have been very tired, and has been learning to cope with doing familiar thing in unfamiliar ways. I have been reading a great deal about Hygge, that Danish custom seeking cozy well-being. I think it has helped the journey.

It has helped me understand the message: it is NOW.

That’s a short message, but a very rich way of looking at life. How often do we brush through the now, intent upon some other thing, we miss the clarity of the  moment and the true sense of now? I have to slow down, especially when typing or my fingers end up in a confused pile of letters. I have to slow down, and think about things because haste makes more ways than ever, whether it be at the loom or in life. I want to slow down, savor each delicious minute, and then go to the next.

It’s been an awful year. The government is incredibly fucked up and that isn’t anything I can do about it, not alone anyway. All we can do is hope that president. goes away sooner than expected–I don’t care how–and begin to put the pieces back together again. I have faith in humanity, despite horribly selfish examples that he and his party set. We are better than that.

However you celebrate your solstice ritual, remember that we are better than that and visualize the world as it should be, not how it is.

I wish you health and prosperity, Progressive thinking and liberal views. We will prevail, because evil can only hide for so long and then it’s seen as it truly is.

Blessed Yule, my friends

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even more ‘me’ than ever

Last month, an important theme emerged about ‘being me’. It was a way of saying that I may have been a bit dented and worse for wear, but that I was fundamentally unharmed on the inside. I’ve had time to think about what it means to be me. I love color and often say it is my first language. I’ve been painting again, living with color.

Five years ago I remember worrying that I landed home before I had time to make a celebratory wardrobe. I wore my New York blacks and greys until they began to fall apart, like the tatters of some black moth cocoon. I think i’m hatched now, a proper butterfly. This is how I want to dress, in colors and layers. dressing to please me, and not following some narrow and conforming idea of proper fashion.

life is too short to wear boring clothes

 

 

 

of foliage and festivals and having a stroke

The leaves are turning, and gently falling. Autumn teaches the lessons of impermanence and letting go. It’s time to gather a leaf or two, some autumn grasses, and snip a few chrysanthemum blossoms, for these are the flowers of this season.

This makes me think about my altar, because that’s where the flowers will go. My altar always makes me reflect on impermanence. I found it in a little shop that sold shabby things. The top is mostly rectangular, except for the corners that have  broken away. The lines are simple, the wood is feather-light, and there’s a coat of soft cantaloupe color paint, worn away in places. It is surprisingly sturdy in its fragility. I don’t know where it’s from or how it came to rest in this town. Surprisingly, it belongs here.

 

…and I wrote this two years ago, a fragment that never developed into anything. It’s autumn again, the altar is painted blue, and I have experienced a mild stroke. Don’t worry. I am well. I may forget a few words if you startle me, and I am not do not have the grace enough to  type very well. I still read, and walk, and most importantly, I still weave. I am still me. Those who are hung up on looks will notice a crooked mouth line, but I speak quite well, so you can practice acceptance in the imperfect, if you like, and get over it. I am still me.

The experience was incredibly peaceful. Maybe its a Buddhist thing. Maybe everyone feels it. Just curiosity, calm acceptance, and never any pain.Lots of sleep and lots of detachment. Life’s not without problems, mostly logistics without car. Next month I will return to work, somehow not typing well. They can deal with it.  I just accept things. I don’t worry. That’s their job.

I am getting the hang of selvedges again. Weaving is slow and deliberate. I like that. Good changes will come of that. I will visit Rhinebeck, for the sheep and wool festival, as i have for many years.  Remember, I am still me. Most of importance of all, I know a little of of what my buddhist teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh might have experienced in his on, more severe, stroke. I hope he has the same peace and detachment.I bow to his wisdom, and know it make me feel less alone.

 

 

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This and that

Happy Autumnal Equinox!

This is the day we begin the inward journey, toward winter and toward the deepest understanding of our own hearts. As an introvert/hermit on the mountaintop, I am so ready for this moment. Summer overwhelms me in so many ways–all the gatherings and events, all the noise and running about, and all the oppressive heat.  Give me a warm sweater and the scent of fallen leaves! I do love autumn.

I’ve started to sew the coverlet to its sheepskin backing. One side is done. It’s still too hot to work under such a warm and weighty piece, so I sew for a little while, first thing in the morning, and put it aside in the midday heat. I can’t wait to snuggle under it some frosty evening.

Here’s a tablecloth warp, all pre-sleyed and ready to beam on. I think this will be a good example for showing Lori how to use a ‘trapeze,’ since they are ideal for putting even tension on a wide warp. Traditionally, you would have two people help you beam on a warp like this. It will weave up at 1 meter in width. This is slated to be the inaugural warp for the shaft drawloom. 9 meters of cottolin goodness. There will be more than 1 table cloth from it. The first one I have planned is inspired by a classic and simple piece I wove in Drawloom Basics at Vävstuga.

I am in love with my face cloth! I recently wove this on a 16/2 cotton warp, using 16/2 line linen weft. It has a gentle exfoliating action. If your idea of luxury is all about having healthy, glowing skin, you will absolutely love this face cloth. I have plans to weave more, because I can’t bear it when this is in the laundry and I have to wash my face on something ordinary. Expect to see hand towels and spa towels in the near future!

Weave in peace and joy!

 

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Making community

Weaving is mostly a solitary pursuit, especially when you need to concentrate at the drawloom. That’s OK, because I am an introvert at heart, and I require a great deal of solitude just to recharge myself after being among people. Yet, I love the time spent with others who make yarn, cloth and clothing.

I have long sustained an image of a community of weavers. It’s not a guild. I know that because I tried participating in a guild, only to realize that it took too much time away from actual weaving, and didn’t often align with my vision of creating calm and practical cloth.

Thinking like a dreamer, I had an image of a small cluster of homes, with shared studio space at the center. I also saw flax fields, dye gardens, and  communal flocks of sheep and cashmere goats around the perimeter of the clearing, and woods beyond that. Looking more closely at the shared studio, I saw the benefits of pooling our libraries and our knowledge, and of having someone there to lend a hand with beaming on a long and stubborn warp, or to give a bit of inspiration. If only I could find an intentional community like this. If only this beautiful dream were a reality.

It’s important to dream, but the dense strands of longing need to be prodded and teased apart into something more attainable and immediate.

I’ve thought of offering the guest bedroom and use of a loom to someone who would live in for a summer, helping me grow and process a small flax crop. That may happen, eventually. It will only make sense when I’m at home more often.

For now, I’m satisfied with making community one afternoon at a time, sharing what I know, receiving others’ knowledge in return, and taking pleasure in being able to give. It’s what makes me whole.

We’ve done some radical things lately, improving a Leclerc Colonial counterbalance loom by replacing most of the innards with Glimåkra and Texsolv parts. It’s amazing how the best looms are really a collection of sticks and strings. Leclerc looms are a bit over-engineered and I don’t mean that in a good way.

Things are getting radical in my studio, too. I bought a 50 shaft combination drawloom and am slowly getting it set up. I’ve also started on the next project for my handwoven home: face cloths and towels.

No pictures today. Soon. I promise.