still casting away…

This time, it’s looms that I am casting away. Mme. Leclerc was never a good fit for me and I am happy to have found her a new home with a kindly weaver. I hope they will be able to form the partnership that I never could find.

Nonetheless, we parted in the way that we always got on, struggling to work together. I really believe that the spinners on the team carried us through the fleece-to-shawl competition. I did not weave my best cloth, struggling with a sticky warp, and never having time to correct a few persistent floats. The shawl came out pretty, coarse, interesting, and sloppy. Maybe that’s how it is supposed to be?

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I had no expectations going into the competition, other than to weave a 72-inch shawl and convey my love of weaving to the public. I had a hope that Mme. Leclair would find her forever home. That’s what happened, and I am joyful. That we also won the competition, well, that was a pleasant surprise.

Water flows across the rocks, it’s path shaped by the surface below. At the same time, water shapes the path that it flows across. Being open to new experiences is much like that–we are shaped by the experience as much as we give shape to it.

something like that

20140509-101510.jpgA web of towels, folded to look like the finished object.

Barbara Elkins, who designed this draft, folds her towels like this, so the main emphasis in her designs is usually in the middle section of the towel, rather than along the edge. Since I plan to sew in a loop in the center of the top hem and hang them from it, the design will be visible no matter what.

In my last post, I created quite an impossible scenario. I can’t thread the shawl draft on Honey.  I need an eight shaft loom for that, and she has but four. I suppose I could thread it as stripes rather than blocks, but that’s as close as I can get.

I have such a stack of hemming and finishing to do, and have no idea which box contains all the sewing thread. It may be time to sacrifice the half-functioning studio in favor of the total chaos of unpacking everything. Once I get through that and put everything in its rightful places, i will be able to settle down and sew some hems.

I feel the same way about meditation. My sitting practice has been a bit haphazard at a time when I might benefit from it most. I find myself to be reasonably in the present moment as I go through my daily activities, but not quite able to settle down for longer periods of time.

towels

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The black and teal towels are officially cloth. They’re off the loom and they look much better than I had expected. The tension issues had a slight impact on the first two towels. They are a bit off square.

No one will mind when they are hanging from a hook in the kitchen. Towels are useful; perfection is not required.

My weaving plans have gone a bit sideways. I may tie up the remainder of the Dreaming warp on Honey (Schacht Standard) and audition the draft I want to use for Fleece to Shawl. That would be productive and practical. You know I really want to weave the placemats on the Glimakra.

In the meanwhile, I have given Justine (Leclerc Compact) a complete cleaning and going over. I think she is a bit easier to treadle now. Isn’t it ironic that my least friendly loom should end up as my partner for this next adventure?

sheep to shawl…meep.

I am excited, and completely terrified, to be the weaver on a sheep to shawl team at an upcoming sheep and wool festival.

The excitement springs from the challenge of doing something completely new.  I’ve woven shawls before, but never by following contest rules nor under a time limit. I am also excited to be thinking about what draft to use, what way to make the interplay of warp and weft look fresh and interesting, yet not be too complicated to weave in front of curious passers by.

I’m terrified by…the challenge of doing something completely new…

Interestingly, I’m not worried about the stamina it takes to weave steadily and quickly. I’ve been in training, without realizing it, since taking Vavstuga Basics in February. We wove hard for at least eight hours a day that week, and I survived it. This is a mere three hours.

Still…meep…

slow cloth

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I just finished the fourth tea towel on this warp, and it looks like I might be able to eke out a fifth towel at the end of the warp. At first, I was a bit dismayed. I thought this project was done, and I felt a tug of frustration when I realized it wasn’t. There’s no possibility of cutting the fabric now, and discarding the remaining warp. That would be wasteful.  I shall weave on.

Slow cloth becomes slower. As I breathe deeply and release my expectations, I am able to focus on the benefits of this. An extra towel is always welcome. An opportunity to practice being in the moment of this project for a bit longer is even more welcome.

Part of the joy of living in this quiet place is that broad swaths of each day are made up of unstructured time. Once the cats are given their hugs and their dinner, the evening can go wherever it meanders. Usually, it is a blend of learning, weaving and just being, punctuated at intervals by the quiet “M’rraou?” of one of the cats. They are my mindfulness bells, calling me back into the moment to listen patiently to their needs and share hugs and purrs.

pausing to…pause

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Even with boxes everywhere, I find that I can finally pause and be present in my surroundings.

I have taken time to weave the third of the four tea towels. I have taken long, admiring looks at the yet unnamed Glimakra, and woven a few picks on the monks’ belt placemats.

At night, I’ve turned off all the lights and been amazed at the carpet of stars visible from the studio windows.

At the end of a hatha yoga practice, lying in savasana and melting into the support of the floor beneath me, I acknowledge that all striving is done. There is nothing to do but absorb the wisdom of the practice.

Yoga permeates all life, not just the hours spent on the mat. As these periods of striving have ended, both the immediate one of moving to this house, and the overarching one of returning home, I am taking the time to absorb the wisdom of these as practice.

I can’t help but see the frenzy slipping away from my work. The weaving need not shout to be heard. It can speak in sighs of relief and murmurs of pleasure, and in the deep silence that comes with being completely at ease.

It is surprising how much gets done in this mindful reverie. When there’s no internal conflict, no energy spent building walls and holding them up, no time spent deciding what is and what is not, things just work. Like the swan gliding along the canal, there’s plenty happening under the placid water, but it’s all about gliding forward, not about flapping wildly and splashing water everywhere.

When the bench is properly adjusted, and my focus is on moving smoothly and purposefully, the tea towels seem to weave themselves.

I make only vague promises for what comes next. The gardens will bloom as they always have, and I will observe. The looms will be filled with useful cloth and I will weave in the studio that is the heart-center of this home.

I weave more softly now

20131205-132438.jpgSometimes, a change in perspective is a good thing.

I am weaving kitchen towels at the moment, part of the unfolding chapter of my life in the Hilltowns. This is an easy and relaxing project. It tells a few words about me, but I wouldn’t call it deeply autobiographical. I don’t have a very close relationship with the kitchen.

Teal, you know, is one of my favorite colors, and I have discovered that it spans a wide range of emotions, from longing to contentment. It is both the road and the destination. I’m not sure the two are different.

In this context, black is simply practical. I’ve had the same black kitchen towels for thirteen years. They are fading to deep grey, but they don’t look shabby the way that stained towels do. Hopefully, these handwoven ones will last even longer.

 

So, with four looms….

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So, with four looms….I should be four times as productive, or four times as happy.  Something like that? I think I am on the way to being four times as happy, and will be when I get the right projects going on the right looms. Things are a bit muddled right now, with quick projects on slow looms, and vice versa.

I might just finish Alisoun’s hair ribbons, a quick project, on the Glimakra band loom, and then put something deliciously complex on the loom, maybe a wide band with more than 20 pattern threads, surrounded by a pair of wide and interesting borders.

My floor loom will probably take a rest after the Midnight Snowflake scarf.  I hope to be moving to a new home and studio space in the next five months. I don’t want to repeat the hasty cutting of work-in-progress that was symbolic of my journey here. I can be content with two slow projects and a quick one on the smaller and more portable looms.

I still marvel every day at the convergence of circumstances that brought me home and continue to enrich my life.

Bar the door, Charlie, they just keep coming!!

Yes, I have another new loom. This one is a workshop loom, a LeClerc Compact, with 8 shafts. Mme. LeClerc came from a loving home in CT, where she was treated kindly but seldom used for weaving. I think she will be very happy here, in a house where French is spoken.

I never thought I wanted an 8 shaft loom, since I weave so much plain weave. Recently, I’ve taken an interest in some of the block weaves, repp and twill alike, so there’s a reason for having more shafts. These weave structures make sense for household goods, placemats, runners and towels. I’m weaving some rather small and thick towels on the warp which came with the loom.

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