Today was time spent away from my loom, among kindred spirits, weaving a gathering basket and raising funds for our library. We tend to make our own amusement here, and much of it involves handcrafting beautiful and practical things. Whenever possible, we try to make it a benefit for one of the worthy institutions in town.
A basket is a very special thing to weave. It’s more than a container. It reminds us that we have a choice in life about what to gather in and what to hold.
As winter projects go, much like the winter itself, they go on and on, spilling past their boundaries like a wash of color on thirsty paper. My studio space is in much better order than it was at the beginning of the year. I do have the winding station and warping mill in reasonable proximity, which makes the warping process more efficient. It does not, however, keep the cats from attacking the thread as it unwinds from the cones.
I also have begun the task of refurbishing my warping mill, which suffered a small amount of water damage from bringing it home in the bed of a pickup truck in a nor’easter. I gently sanded off the old finish, which was not a varnish, but the patina of age, use and furniture wax. The wood still has much of the rich tones of aged Swedish pine. I don’t know if I’ll put a thin layer of varnish on it, or just wax it and let the patina rebuild itself.
While I was in the middle of sanding, I took a call from another weaver in this small town. She is downsizing her studio and offered me a warping mill. I am going to take it, because it has two crossbars and mine only has one. There is a way to wind a long warp with a cross at each end, and then cut it into two perfectly symmetrical sections. She also offered me a Glimakra Standard, which I am not going to take. The studio would be painfully crowded if I did.
The planet Mercury has been in retrograde since January 21. It appears to be moving in the opposite direction, but that’s an illusion. Nonetheless, astrologers credit this phenomenon, which happens three times in a year, with bringing up things from the recent past, causing miscommunications and misunderstandings, and even the breakdown of electronic devices. I feel like the sudden appearance of another warping mill and Glimakra standard comes from this retrograde activity. Or is my warping mill inhabited by a genie who loves the tickle of sandpaper, and grants me another warping mill in return for all that gentle sanding?
If we would just get a long break between snow storms, I might have time to ponder this and life’s other mysteries.
Even though I weave as often as I can, there are these occasional moments of awe when I look at some fabric, wet finished and pressed, and can’t help but squeal, “OMG, it’s cloth!” Much of the process of weaving focuses on the tiniest details, with my attention focused narrowly on the fell line and the actual cloth sneaks up on me unaware.
This pillow, the weaving that I described as three shuttle mania, caught me like that.
Sometimes the most disparate scraps come together better than expected. This was made of a threading from one draft, a treadling from another, and odd bits of thread from the studio.When I put the warp on the loom, making a pillow wasn’t even on my mind.
The pattern weft is Möbelåtta from Bockens. It’s a glossy, wiry, worsted-spun 8/2 wool that I originally used in my Misted Hills Coat. It takes faith to work with this yarn for the first time. It’s heavily sized, dull, and unpleasant to the touch. It is completely transformed during wet finishing.
Although I am an indifferent cook, I love to set a cheerful table, even when I dine alone. This placemat is the first in a series I have called Table for One. There are four place mats woven from the same warp, but each has its distinctive style.
This is Maija’s mat, named in honor of the woman who was my big Glimåkra’s first owner. The loom came to me with a box of poppana, rolls of bias cut cotton strip that was made to be used as weft. The bias cut edges give a gentle chenille texture to the finished cloth.
It was an interesting warp, designed with only a vague idea in mind. The threading was for Monks’ Belt, which also gave me plain weave. I took advantage of both.
As the snow falls enthusiastically outside, my mind is actually focused beneath the snow, and beneath the frozen crust of garden soil. I can sense an almost imperceptible stirring. The spring bulbs are awakening, gathering strength for their journey. This is the season for garden catalogs and for living on the cusp between dreams and plans.
It also snowed that Imbolc night in Manhattan when S. and I lead the public ritual. We all sat on the floor, while the lights on the altar flickered above us. Did I really lead a meditation on a spring bulb’s journey toward awakening? I must have, because I remember giving everyone in circle some paperwhite bulbs to take home and grow in a pot on the window sill. It was my farewell gift. I was being called to a more traditional form of practice that is grounded in a direct connection with the land. I knew I couldn’t thrive in a pot on the window sill. I never could.
In a few minutes, I will go out and shovel some snow to make room for more snow to fall. Then, I’ll put on my mother’s red cloak, and take up my broom and a pail of milk to give the traditional Imbolc blessing to the land.
May you also be blessed, and remember that, like a spring bulb, you hold within you everything that you need to make your dreams a reality.