one for sorrow and two for joy

As I start my second journey through Zati: The Art of Weaving a Life, I can’t help but notice how that childhood rhyme, used for counting magpies, ravens or crows, describes the journey. The first time I worked through the small and intensely thoughtful keyforms outlined in the book, I was mourning my mother’s passing. I never quite finished the projects, and am in fact, still weaving the shawl. It’s coming to an end. Finally.

Along the way, I’ve woven the occasional amulet when invoking something new into my life, and have woven the receiving bowl as both a chance to receive life’s blessings and also as an opportunity to share them with someone else.

Now, I am weaving from a place of joy, bouncing through the keyforms, not necessarily in sequence. This is my first chance to enjoy and embrace the spring season at Buttonwood. Last spring, everything was mud outside and unpacked boxes inside. My mother always said that the snow should go off with the wind and sun rather than rain. While the snow is by no means gone, the March wind blows with vigor and enthusiasm.

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Spring in the hilltowns is only a promise in March. I celebrated the equinox in blowing snow. Yet, I know it is spring because the snow melted from the paths and deck railings within a day. I also know that this is spring because of the light. The days are long now. I’m filled with energy, and the house is filled with sunlight and the sounds of chanting. In the garden, under the frozen soil, the spring bulbs must be getting impatient. “When, when?” they ask. “Soon, soon,” I whisper. The magic for awakening the earth must wait a bit. I will not rap on the frozen ground and ask them to awaken in bloom. Not yet.

I did weave that promise into an amulet, along with the intention to question less, and do more (such as going to kirtan last Wednesday on an absolute whim), and to trust my instincts and go where they lead me.

 

holding

There are days where I cannot sit at the loom and throw the shuttle on it’s fixed path. It’s just too linear and predictable for the wilder energy that I am feeling. I have to grab a simple frame loom, some expressive yarn, and experience all the sensations of weaving through my fingertips.

It was snowing gently but persistently when I wove this, but my heart was attuned to the chatter of the finches. Now? Now? They are asking in excited and buzzing tones.

I can weave my nest now because dreams can be nurtured in any season. They hatch when they are ready.

Alas, dear finches, you must wait.

Table for One

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.

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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.

Autumn, at last

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I can’t think of a better way to celebrate autumn than by sitting in front of the fireplace at Buttonwood, weaving on my band loom. Nights and mornings are chilly now, and the thick down quilt is a welcome place for the cats and me to snuggle at night. In the morning, the fireplace beckons.

Someday soon, I’ll light the wood furnace, but it’s not quite cold enough.

I’m weaving an indigo and natural linen band to use as handles on a market basket. Next month, I’m taking a workshop to learn to weave the basket. Layer by layer, my life becomes simpler and my material goods more handmade. It takes time to make things by hand, but they last a long time.

Traditionally, the autumn equinox is a time of drawing in the harvest, preparing for the long winter ahead, and tucking away seeds and nuts (yeah, squirrel!). The harvest at Buttonwood is spaciousness. The summer’s crop was unpacked boxes, things put in their rightful places, and especially things released that no longer serve me. I find it fitting that I carried and treasured these things for so many years and in so many places, only to return to my beloved hills where I could let them go.

September at last

I will miss these guys when they head south.

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They are Sandhill Cranes, infrequent visitors to these New England hills. I have been lucky to share my land with them all summer.

I feel the change of season very strongly in early September. Autumn is teasing and tugging at me, drawing me into darker colors and thoughts of wooly sweaters. When we get the odd warm day, I have to remember that this season is fickle and summer may not want to let go. I was born at this time of year, in the midst of a hurricane. Hurricane Sandy brought me home. It’s an ill wind that blows nobody good.

The curtain tiebacks are coming along. I have ten inches to go on the borders, and then I can start the central band. Except that I may appropriate the band loom to weave a simple striped handle for a market basket. I still do not have a sense of what band loom is best for slow projects vs. quick ones. I keep reaching for the Glimakra band loom, regardless of the project.

craving September

August is turning into a shaggy, unkempt dog of a month. Was there really a summer this year? It’s often crisp and cool on the mountain, some ten degrees cooler than the valley, and never as humid. I enjoyed the ceiling fans for a week or so, but mostly, I reach for the pile of blankets at night. I am eager for September, with even more crisp weather and with the sense of urgency that it brings. September is time to gather in most of the harvest and turn the focus more resolutely inward. I love the inward journey toward the winter solstice. The fiber arts take on a renewed focus for me at this time of year. Weaving guilds begin their annual cycle of meetings. I walk the path of a schoolgirl again, scuffing in the leaves and eating fresh apples. I rediscover warm sweaters and take delight in sitting at the hearth. This is my season.

There was a time I would have celebrated the long weekend with a studio retreat.  Even though I live in my studio, I think I want to put some intentions together for the weekend and give myself a break from unpacking.

Just for the weekend, I shall

  • put unpacking and routine chores aside
  • be offline
  • design a simple striped band for market basket handles (1″ wide and 120″ long.)
  • dye some linen thread in an indigo vat
  • visit Hancock Shaker Village and draw upon the well of simplicity that permeates the old buildings
  • eat simply prepared, healthful foods
  • take time for reflection and meditation
  • weave

Sounds beautiful, doesn’t it? I could just do these things, but by setting an intention to do them, I am reminded do all this mindfully and with my full attention. After all, I am ushering in my beloved September.

 

 

 

 

spots and stripes

Life at Buttonwood gets better every day. If I could only figure out what box contains my copy of Barbro Wallin’s Moraband, things would be near perfect. I’m tempted to order a second copy, but I suspect this is supposed to be one of those life lessons in patience. Didn’t I already have this one last year, when the new sheets went missing for months, and were finally discovered in a box of art supplies? Did I not learn enough from that?

On the side of perfection, the woods are full of birds, and I have seen so many young ones  out exploring the world. Several mornings, I’ve seen young wild turkeys dutifully lined up behind their mother, exploring the land.  This morning, a little robin, his plumage half way between juvenile and adult, was on my lawn.IMG_1606

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that sparrows and robins are ordinary or boring. While they may be plentiful, they are also insouciant and fascinating little bundles of feathers.

Turning away from the window, a bit reluctantly on such a nice morning, I am making good progress on the band loom with the curtain tieback. I have a little more than ten inches done, and need forty in total for the borders, since they are used on either side of the central band.

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As I expected, I am weaving more efficiently using a Glimåkra band knife with the weft thread wrapped around the handle. I am also becoming more efficient in writing about weaving. I can now click on a icon for a Swedish keyboard and get the additional vowels that are necessary to spell words like väv (weave) and dräll

Stripes

I just wound a striped warp for the band loom. It only has 47 threads but it was slow and fiddly to wind because the colors changed every thread or two.

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I’ll be weaving a pair of curtain tie backs. I’m not sure where I will use them but these are the principal colors in my house, so I have many choices where I can use them. Red is not part of the palette; it’s my least favorite color. That makes it ideal for tying a warp.

Sticks and strings

I often call the Glimåkra Standard a bundle of sticks and strings. There certainly are enough sticks. It’s a ten shaft loom, currently set up for only four shafts, so the corner is filled with extra lamms, heddle bars and treadles. Until now, these have been a tumbled mess.

While Glimåkra and others make various stands for storing reeds and sticks, I was convinced I needed something a bit larger. By chance, I saw a post on Ravelry that recommended using IKEA wine racks as reed holders. As you can see, they work for both reeds and sticks.

20140717-153306-55986310.jpgI believe in good, well made equipment. In this case, I found something ordinary that was equally as useful as a purpose-built solution. That’s a rare and wonderful occurrence.

It appears that all the damage to this site, done by the hackers and the well-meaning technicians, has been repaired. I think I am more rattled by the fortress that the technicians tried to create than by the original hack. I am not a person who can live in hatred or fear. I will not have empty threats or warnings as part of my website. I once worked for a company that had a paragraph-long unwelcome mat on their login screen. It was a lot of pseudo-legal rubbish that threatened all sorts of actions against anyone who wasn’t a duly authorised user. I doubt it deterred any hacker, and it certainly offended customers and employees who had to face such negativity each time they used the site.

I’d rather say welcome, and please be so kind to leave things as you found them.

 

moving forward, one cord at a time

The studio was glorious this weekend, filled with air and light. Other than a brief appearance at a friend’s gathering on Saturday, I kept company with my cats and my loom all weekend. I am patiently upgrading Per, my newly found but venerable Glimakra loom, to include a countermarch and all new Texsolv cords and heddles. I started at the top of the loom with the countermarch itself, and am working my way down. This weekend, I put on new beam cords and heddles, and started to put a warp on the loom.

Beaming a warp has never been one of my favorite steps in weaving.  A lot can go wrong, especially when working alone. I have good intentions of building a warping ‘valet’ or ‘trapeze’ but I didn’t feel like going in to town this weekend to pick up the necessary lumber. However, I realized that I could use weights on the bouts of warp and could expect better results than the crank, yank and cross your fingers method that I have been using.

What to use for weights? I drink water, so I didn’t have any stray milk or juice containers in my recycling bin. I could use rocks, because this part of New England is famous for its rocky soil, and I had dug up plenty of them when preparing the flower garden last month. Rocks need to be washed, weighed and bagged, and that seems like a lot of work. What to use?  Back to the fact that I drink water.  I have collapsible water bottles in my camping gear. I have a pair of one liter bottles for the seltzer maker. All told, I was able to round up enough bottles to put 2.5 kg. of weight on each of the two bouts of warp.

That has to be the smoothest warp I have ever beamed on. It’s neatly packed with sticks, and for once in my life, I finally have enough sticks to do the job right.

With this loom, taking my time and doing things right feels natural and good. I want to understand each cord and know its purpose. I am determined to have each cord in a set be the same length, so that I can know that they are in balance. With the right tools and the right skills, there is nothing to dread about any step of weaving.

It is worth every careful step, because I am home and I have the loom of my dreams.

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