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.

Yeah, it is a form of resistance

Aside

I’ve been making a few tweaks to older posts, changing units of measure from English to metric.

I have never understood why the metric system failed to take root in the US. It’s logical. It’s the international standard. We are not so special that we should have our own system of measurements. Even England abandoned the English measures years ago.

It seems desperately important to me to embrace the metric system at the moment. Under the current regime, the US is hell-bent on becoming more insular, more dumbed-down, and more out of touch with reality. No thanks.

Most of my weaving equipment is metric to begin with, except for a couple of ’48/10′ reeds that I keep for weaving US patterns. I may ditch those in favor of proper 50/10 reeds, because so many US weaving patterns have mushy setts to begin with and could benefit from 2 more ends per cm.

Metric reeds, for those who do not use them, are measured in ends per 10 cm. To convert to a US reed size, divide the first number by 4.

Quintessentially Glimåkra

While I was setting up my drawloom, a few respected weavers called into question whether my big Scandinavian loom was a Glimåkra Standard at all. At first, I shrugged it off. Then I started to wonder, and it started to bother me a great deal. By questioning Per’s origins in that way, there was an implication that I should know better than to expect an inferior pile of cobbled together loom parts to behave like a proper loom.

When I though I had the only loom like this in the world, it was a plausible theory. The day that a second loom, exactly like mine, showed up half-way across the country, it was time to come up with a better theory.

The answer was in plain sight on the GAV Glimakra website:

In 1950 the two entrepreneurs Lennart Persson and Yngve Nilsson started Glimåkra Vävstolsfabrik (loom making factory) in the small town of Glimåkra in the south of Sweden. 1975 this company was bought by one of the larger groups of companies in Sweden, the Bonnier Group.

 

In 1999 GAV bought the loom manufacturing and the right to the brand name from Glimåkra and moved the loom manufacturing to Oxberg, near Mora.

Knowing that my loom was purchased in Sweden in the late 60’s, and later brought to the US by it’s first owner, what I have is a genuine old–dare I say original–Glimåkra Vävstolsfabrik loom with it’s proper bench. In those days, Glimåkra looms had four spokes on their ratchet wheels. They were shaped a bit differently than today. They were virtually unknown in the US.

You can just call him Per Persson.

A little yellow goes a long way

A little yellow goes a long way. The Queen Bee napkins are progressing, with two done and the third one leaving the simplicity of the bee skep and heading into the broken rhythms of the honeycomb and bees.

When I wove the first few picks on the alabaster warp, I chose a cool grey color because it was high contrast, and sure to point out any threading mistakes. I stayed with the color as I started adjusting the shed, for the same reasons. Then, I started the color sampling to choose the right yellow weft. I love the way yellow and grey play together. When I rented the house at Sparrow Hill, the yellow walls in the master bedroom were a source of frustration until I tamed them with cool grey and alabaster bed linens. This is the only way that yellow is really palatable to me.

Around that time, I realized that I had too much yellow yarn, so many 1 lb. cones of 8/2 un-mercerized cotton in the brand of yarn that I’ve decided to discontinue at my studio. I don’t like the hand of this yarn. The fibers are exceptionally short, and the yarn is dull and lifeless. It’s OK to use it up while learning the intricacies of the draw loom, and it’s OK to use it up for some quickly woven kitchen goods.

I saw a table runner in En Rand och Några Rutor that had the same relationship between the colors that I found in my grey and yellow yarns. The original used black and shades of red. I adapted the number of ends to suit 8/2 cotton and wound a six meter warp.

The first project was this table runner.

The, resleying the warp to make towels, wider and softer than the runner, I’m finishing up a set of three towels.

I still have too much yellow yarn. Should I wind another warp, of the brightest yellow, and weave an apron with monks belt bands? The ground weft would be the pale yellow, and the pattern weft would be alabaster and grey. It’s a possibility…

 

First project ON the drawloom

While the assembly of the drawloom consumed most of my summer and early autumn, I am now completely consumed by weaving the first project on my Myrehed single unit drawloom.

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There is something so satisfying about pulling draw cords according to the charted design that I drew. I feel like I have finally found an outlet for my somewhat primitive drawing skills. And, should I not feel like drawing, there are so many sources for charted traditional folk art motifs.

One of my uncles kept bees, and I have given serious thought to getting a hive. Bees are a threatened resource because of the pesticides used in industrial farming. I shudder to think of a world without bees, for it would be a world without fruits and vegetables.

What stopped me from getting a hive is that it would produce 40-50 pounds of honey a year. I probably use a pound of honey in a good year.

Instead, I shall weave my hive and bees, and buy my honey and beeswax from a local farm.

This is the  beginning of a pair of casual napkins for the kitchen table, woven in broken twill using 8/2 cotton. They will be perfect for the breakfast table, especially when serving toast with honey.