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.

in the bright light of midsummer

It is good to stop for a minute before and after the solstice, and see if anything feels different. The season of sowing has come to an end, and it is now time to turn the thought towards ripening and eventually reaping. The first fruits are coming into season, and the days of thin, crisp asparagus shoots are coming to an end. This is midsummer.

My relationship with Buttonwood seems to be following a similar path. Today, most of the moving cartons left with a couple I met on Saturday. They will be moving south in the autumn, and their summer harvest will be stacks of neatly piled cartons. I still have lots of boxes, but they aren’t yet empty.

Take all the time you need. I must repeat this as a mantra and heed it like good advice. All the sowing is done. Everything else will follow in its own time.

Things are moving slowly with setting up the countermarch on the Glimakra. It’s OK. Take all the time that you need, right?

Instead, I felt like weaving this kitchen chair seat.

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And I have three more to weave for the dining room. I love each of these chairs as individuals, and love the way they come together as a friendly but unmatched set.

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Black and tan woven seats will give them a common identity while still preserving their individuality. It’s been too long since I assembled an whimsical assortment of dining chairs and I still need a few more to fill the table.

a little math goes a long way

You’ve heard of some of my adventures with math for weavers. Like the 10 yard warp that was actually 14 yards long…or the elusive number of ends in the shawl that I’m weaving right now…168 at first count…then 156…and finally, officially…162.

And then there’s X, that weaselly little variable. I have X yards of that 14 yard warp remaining. Since I only need a small amount of it to finish the patchwork shawl, I am weaving the rest of it for the joy of making cloth, and I’ll decide what it can be when I’m done weaving it.

That absolves me of knowing precisely how much weft I need.  I need Y, more or less.

Maybe this math thing isn’t so bad when you leave the actual numbers out of it.

One thing I do know is that I need 33 yards of weft to weave 5 inches of fabric. Give or take.  More or less.

fulfilling promises

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This is what I promised myself, that I would weave the fabric for my home. I wove this linen table square at Vavstuga, racing the clock to finish it. Becky wove a small section of it so that I could go enjoy a session with a massage therapist, so necessary after four long days of weaving.

Today, I sewed the hems and gave it a wash and press.

This is the fourth handwoven piece for my home. There’s a fingertip towel in the guest bath, and my old favorite rainbow runner on the dining table. Potholders galore in the kitchen. Soon, there will be kitchen towels.

On this Mothers’ Day, this is all a gift of reassurance to my mother’s spirit. She always despaired of my housekeeping, but she would be very proud of these simple and useful cloths.

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.

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.

Amusing my inner child

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There comes a point where you can only be so grown up for so long. I’ve been productive. I’ve been focused. I even spent all of 2013 being accountable to myself.

I’m simply tired and a little bit giggly underneath my normally calm and serious self. I don’t have the attention span right now to weave on any of my serious projects, and I even feel a small amount of guilt in weaving when I should be packing boxes or hiring contractors to work on the new house and studio.

A humble potholder loom does a lot for a case of the giggles, and does nothing to alarm my conscience. Potholders are fun, quick and somewhat necessary. I like the small size; I have small-ish hands and find that these traditional sized potholders, folded on the bias, protect my fingers completely and can be handled far more deftly than the big black terry potholders that I’ve used for the past thirteen years.

I particularly like the potholder that’s a perfect match for my fiesta ware. I should get some more loopers and make a hot dish pad using four squares.

Let me tell you something about loopers: some of them are really LoOoOoOpY.

Harrisville Designs makes excellent ones that are uniform in size and easy to use. I had a bag of some brand x ones that were all different sizes and weights, with many of them too small to fit the loom.

Do you remember making your first pot holder? I can remember the loom and the fun of weaving, but not much about the finished pot holder. I was probably five years old when I made it. I don’t think I fell in love with weaving that day. THAT didn’t happen until I was a teen, with a backstrap rigid heddle loom.

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.