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.

More Stripes

Changing a little thing like the curtains on the cabinets can give the space a new look. I think the stripes are fresh and exciting

20140730-153719-56239371.jpg

What’s in the canning jars?  Small balls of hand spun yarn, and even some roving that is waiting to be spun.  I call it my Strange Fruit.

still unpacking


IMG_4601Four months into life at Buttonwood, and I am still unpacking in the studio and bedroom. Out of the four boxes I unpacked yesterday, I managed to fill the better part of a donations box. This is the right way to unpack, to acknowledge that our relationship with things changes over time. It is very empowering to release what is no longer important.

The studio is beginning to feel spacious again. It felt that way until the  furniture and equipment arrived. Then, it felt uncomfortably close for a long time, because boxes are overwhelming and ponderous, no matter how large the space.

I am still weaving placemats.  The second one is going quickly, because the Monk’s belt motif is very scattered on this one. Plain weave goes quickly, pattern takes longer.

IMG_4610

 

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.

IMG_4483

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.

IMG_4477

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.

rhythm of the days

My days have taken on a gentle rhythm. Mornings are cat time, and the Birmans are content to purr and snuggle a bit until the day summons us forth, to the kitchen, where they enjoy their breakfast while I make mine.

I think about weaving a lot during the day, and make plans that are often written on the gossamer threads of imagination. I seem to have all the plans and all the answers until I arrive at home and step into the studio.

The studio is not quite the peaceful sanctuary it is destined to become. There are still a few too many boxes underfoot. The windows need to be washed. But sanctuary is relative in a place that is already a secluded retreat from all that holds no meaning for me. The sun sets behind the mountaintops and I am learning the topography of the space between my mountaintop and the ones to the west. I am learning which doors and windows can be open when the rain pours down. I have regained my ability to sleep and dream.

I am gently melting into the bliss of being home, of no longer having to hold on to every tattered shred of my identity in a world that was intent upon tearing it from my grasp. I have slipped quietly into a community that shares my values. I don’t have to create it or defend it.

I know that the studio space will evolve and the boxes will be dealt with. Doing this with full mindfulness takes time. I am still casting away stones, looking to release what no longer serves me. I can do that now that I am home.

taking stock

One of the joys of unpacking is finding out what I really have. At Sparrow Hill, things were stored very haphazardly in a studio room that I seldom used, and I had the supplies for my current project in the room that I used as a working studio. Here, everything is going in the same studio.

One thing I’ve realized is that I have too much unspun fiber. I won’t buy any more until I can spin my way through what I want to keep, and give away what I no longer want. How much is too much? I have about two footlockers worth of fiber. I think I would be comfortable with one quarter of that.

My weaving yarn is in much better shape. Other than 6 cones of alpaca/silk and mohair, all of which are a bit too hairy for comfort, everything else I have is either for a handful of planned projects, or leftovers from past projects. I guess I am disciplined when it comes to buying cones of yarn, but not so good when it comes to fiber for spinning.

I need to get spinning. Here’s my priority list:

–For the Dreaming cloth I’m working on:
Loop clouds in 3-Ring Circus colorwayIMG_2675
Loop clouds in a bright purple colorwayIMG_2674
Both purchased at Rhinebeck in 2013. At least I’ve already spun and woven the first batch of this from 2012.

–For use in a throw that matches the color scheme in my library:
Tintagel Farms roving in Starry Night colorway
DSC02466Purchased at Rhinebeck in 2009

–To be combined with some other orange and yellow hand-spun for Saori clothing fabric:
18 oz. Party in a Bag from Puckerbrush Farm
DSC02467Also purchased at Rhinebeck in 2009

–For something soft and luscious:
32 oz. Creatively Dyed merino/sea silk in Ocean colorway
DSC02469Also from 2009…

That list tells a story, doesn’t it? In 2009, I was starting to think in color again, finding my way out of the white cocoon that had sheltered me after my mother’s passing. I went a bit overboard on colorful fiber, didn’t I?

pausing to…pause

Status

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.

When a loom falls from the sky

20140407-101449.jpg

When you want something long enough and hard enough, it eventually falls from the sky.  This is one of the essential truths in my life.

A few years ago, I became aware of these large, traditional looms that break down into a pile of sticks and strings when they are disassembled. I learned that the design of looms in Scandinavia had survived relatively unscathed by the influence of the industrial revolution. I was fascinated by the idea that you began with a basic, sturdy frame, and added only the parts that the current weaving project required. It seemed so pure and focused. I wanted a loom like this.

Which led to the selection of the right house and studio…

Which led to a week-long Basics class at Vävstuga…

Which led to me haunting Craigslist for almost a year…

Everything came together at once, knocking me out of my careful plan into a madcap scramble to get everything done.  Basics class fell in the middle of renovations. The beautiful Glimåkra Standard materialized the DAY BEFORE I was scheduled to move.

I love the way the pine loom fades into the pine wall beyond it. Who would think such a big loom could relax so subtly into my studio? This is what it means to be home.

What it means for me as a weaver is interesting. I am eager to begin weaving for the house: rugs, pillows and blankets. Most of my work up to this point had focused on weaving me home, magical cloth that made my dreams a reality. The work I did at Sparrow Hill was transitional, opening my senses to a quieter and calmer way of weaving as the tension finally drained out of the fiber of my being.

Now here, in the yet-unnamed studio, on a yet-unnamed loom, all I can think of are long warps and simple weaves–stripes, rosepath, and monks’ belt.