of foliage and festivals and having a stroke

The leaves are turning, and gently falling. Autumn teaches the lessons of impermanence and letting go. It’s time to gather a leaf or two, some autumn grasses, and snip a few chrysanthemum blossoms, for these are the flowers of this season.

This makes me think about my altar, because that’s where the flowers will go. My altar always makes me reflect on impermanence. I found it in a little shop that sold shabby things. The top is mostly rectangular, except for the corners that have  broken away. The lines are simple, the wood is feather-light, and there’s a coat of soft cantaloupe color paint, worn away in places. It is surprisingly sturdy in its fragility. I don’t know where it’s from or how it came to rest in this town. Surprisingly, it belongs here.

 

…and I wrote this two years ago, a fragment that never developed into anything. It’s autumn again, the altar is painted blue, and I have experienced a mild stroke. Don’t worry. I am well. I may forget a few words if you startle me, and I am not do not have the grace enough to  type very well. I still read, and walk, and most importantly, I still weave. I am still me. Those who are hung up on looks will notice a crooked mouth line, but I speak quite well, so you can practice acceptance in the imperfect, if you like, and get over it. I am still me.

The experience was incredibly peaceful. Maybe its a Buddhist thing. Maybe everyone feels it. Just curiosity, calm acceptance, and never any pain.Lots of sleep and lots of detachment. Life’s not without problems, mostly logistics without car. Next month I will return to work, somehow not typing well. They can deal with it.  I just accept things. I don’t worry. That’s their job.

I am getting the hang of selvedges again. Weaving is slow and deliberate. I like that. Good changes will come of that. I will visit Rhinebeck, for the sheep and wool festival, as i have for many years.  Remember, I am still me. Most of importance of all, I know a little of of what my buddhist teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh might have experienced in his on, more severe, stroke. I hope he has the same peace and detachment.I bow to his wisdom, and know it make me feel less alone.

 

 

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This and that

Happy Autumnal Equinox!

This is the day we begin the inward journey, toward winter and toward the deepest understanding of our own hearts. As an introvert/hermit on the mountaintop, I am so ready for this moment. Summer overwhelms me in so many ways–all the gatherings and events, all the noise and running about, and all the oppressive heat.  Give me a warm sweater and the scent of fallen leaves! I do love autumn.

I’ve started to sew the coverlet to its sheepskin backing. One side is done. It’s still too hot to work under such a warm and weighty piece, so I sew for a little while, first thing in the morning, and put it aside in the midday heat. I can’t wait to snuggle under it some frosty evening.

Here’s a tablecloth warp, all pre-sleyed and ready to beam on. I think this will be a good example for showing Lori how to use a ‘trapeze,’ since they are ideal for putting even tension on a wide warp. Traditionally, you would have two people help you beam on a warp like this. It will weave up at 1 meter in width. This is slated to be the inaugural warp for the shaft drawloom. 9 meters of cottolin goodness. There will be more than 1 table cloth from it. The first one I have planned is inspired by a classic and simple piece I wove in Drawloom Basics at Vävstuga.

I am in love with my face cloth! I recently wove this on a 16/2 cotton warp, using 16/2 line linen weft. It has a gentle exfoliating action. If your idea of luxury is all about having healthy, glowing skin, you will absolutely love this face cloth. I have plans to weave more, because I can’t bear it when this is in the laundry and I have to wash my face on something ordinary. Expect to see hand towels and spa towels in the near future!

Weave in peace and joy!

 

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A little yellow goes a long way

A little yellow goes a long way. The Queen Bee napkins are progressing, with two done and the third one leaving the simplicity of the bee skep and heading into the broken rhythms of the honeycomb and bees.

When I wove the first few picks on the alabaster warp, I chose a cool grey color because it was high contrast, and sure to point out any threading mistakes. I stayed with the color as I started adjusting the shed, for the same reasons. Then, I started the color sampling to choose the right yellow weft. I love the way yellow and grey play together. When I rented the house at Sparrow Hill, the yellow walls in the master bedroom were a source of frustration until I tamed them with cool grey and alabaster bed linens. This is the only way that yellow is really palatable to me.

Around that time, I realized that I had too much yellow yarn, so many 1 lb. cones of 8/2 un-mercerized cotton in the brand of yarn that I’ve decided to discontinue at my studio. I don’t like the hand of this yarn. The fibers are exceptionally short, and the yarn is dull and lifeless. It’s OK to use it up while learning the intricacies of the draw loom, and it’s OK to use it up for some quickly woven kitchen goods.

I saw a table runner in En Rand och Några Rutor that had the same relationship between the colors that I found in my grey and yellow yarns. The original used black and shades of red. I adapted the number of ends to suit 8/2 cotton and wound a six meter warp.

The first project was this table runner.

The, resleying the warp to make towels, wider and softer than the runner, I’m finishing up a set of three towels.

I still have too much yellow yarn. Should I wind another warp, of the brightest yellow, and weave an apron with monks belt bands? The ground weft would be the pale yellow, and the pattern weft would be alabaster and grey. It’s a possibility…

 

Weavers with Blogs

Aside

I’ve updated the list of Weavers with Blogs to include my current reading choices, and also kept a few perennial favorites who I still read on occasion. The site looks much less dusty now, I think.

It’s also time for some new banner images.

 

A good harvest

My garden is metaphorical, but the harvest has been very real. What becomes of winter studies and grand projects that leave me crumpled and worn down by the hot days of summer? They come back to life in autumn, when I am refreshed and once again excited.

img_7089 My winter study in Swedish art weaves is now my favorite shoulder bag. Something about the shape is familiar from my student days. I can feel my hand resting on that bag, but I cannot see it in my mind. The memory is based completely on touch and hand position. It is also familiar from more distant lives, a different bag holding the worldly goods of the barefoot gipsy girl that the gaj called Wild Blue, or another holding the few scraps of sacred text and the begging bowl of an old Buddhist nun.

img_7185The band for my Stjerne coverlet is off the loom, and I played with the ribbon swirls for a while before settling down to sew the band into a mitered border. Despite the three sewing machines in my studio, my hand reaches instinctively for needle and thread. Hand-woven fabric deserves hand-sewn seams. I can backstitch along at a good rate, and I enjoy the contrast between the cool linen border and the complex surface of cotton and linen overshot by woolen pattern threads.

Even the drawloom project is coming along. The first warp is neatly wound around the warp beam and threaded through the pattern heddles at the back of the loom. Now, the long-eyed ground heddle are hanging on their shafts and I am threading a simple broken twill for the first project.

The house and studio have been caught up in enthusiasm of the harvest. I donated three bags of clothing and one large bag of yarn, and have discarded several bags of useless stuff. It feels good to be free of things that no longer bring me joy.

I still marvel at the turns of fate that have brought me to this present moment, and especially at the inner calm that arises when I weave cloth.

 

So glad you have caught up

You may recall that I didn’t set my clocks back when Daylight Savings ended last autumn. I kept going, deciding that I wanted to experience the slow progression of sunrise and sunset within the season, rather than being thrust abruptly into a different part of the day at the whim of some lawmakers.

Now, you’ve changed your clocks again.  I had no need to, and I never will again.

I hope the day finds you in good health. Moving the clock forward is hard on the body.  Take it easy. Sleep late if you can. Consider making this the last time you change your clock. Remember that there is statistical evidence that more auto accidents occur when the clocks change, and there is mounting evidence that the risk of heart attack and strokes increases when the clocks are set ahead in the spring.

For me, it will be nice to look at a public clock and not have to add an hour to what I see, or to be mistaken for a morning person, as I was all winter.

If you wonder why my standard time is actually now, and not in the winter, I made that decision to keep myself in sync with public time for as many months of the year as possible, and it seems natural for me to have my winter daylight at the end of my day.

Looking back at the winter,  I feel as if I was more productive and creative than usual, and I suffered less from feeling in disharmony with the season. November was a bit of a struggle, as I grappled with the practical details of being out of sync with everyone.

There is a rising interest in abolishing the time changes. No one makes a compelling argument for them, and we are a far less regimented society than we once were. Why not give it a try?

But what about the farmers? That’s always the excuse, right?  Well, I strongly support the idea that the farmers should set their working hours to take best advantage of the daylight. The only thing I ask is that they not expect the entire nation to follow.

 

A meter and a half

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Cross this one off my bucket list; my Stjerne coverlet is woven. Ever since I have been weaving at Vävstuga, I’ve wanted to weave the cloth for this small coverlet. I spent four days creating this, choosing colors, modifying the draft to create the wide multicolor stripes, and weaving as fast as I could, to produce the cloth that has been living in my dreams. It even looks the way I imagined, with the dark grey wool softening the pattern, and the black stripes erasing the rigid symmetry of overshot. Fårö wool comes in such beautiful colors, and I was able to select shades of yellow, blue, green and light red that play well together and have the look of indigo, goldenrod and madder dyes.

See the sample of charcoal grey sheepskin resting on the cloth? This is what I have chosen for the lining of the coverlet. I can’t wait to go for a sleigh ride with this coverlet to keep me warm. (Some assembly required. Snow not included).

But first, I must design, weave and sew on a mitered border, maybe 10cm. in width This will add a bit of interest and a bit of size to the coverlet. Then, the fabric will go to the leather worker to have the  lining made, and then back to me for sewing it all together.

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My own studio seems so quiet after four days of weaving at Vävstuga, where all the looms come together in a symphony of creaks and thumps. Weavers talk from loom to loom, in disjointed conversations punctuated by intense silence when the work demands it. I like to think that the improvisations in my weaving ( I won’t call them mistakes because they are all in the spirit of the pattern) were born of the good conversations.

If I had all the time in the world to weave the cloth, it might have been more perfect. I only had four days. But, would perfect cloth, woven slowly and meticulously, have been as lively as cloth woven at a breakneck pace?

When we are filled with joy and enthusiasm, perfection is far from mind. Meter upon meter of thread passed through my fingers, at least two kilometers, and maybe more. I am satisfied with my cloth, and proud that I was able to push through the fatigue and get it done. What kept me going at times was a silly rhyme that my mother taught me when I was a child.

I had to laugh

To see the calf

Go down the path

A mile and a half

In a minute and a half

To have a bath

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wrapped in autumn’s quiet cloak, but still restless

Each new day at Buttonwood is a gift. Autumn is both a season of drawing inward and of expanded horizons. I love nothing more than to sit wrapped in a woolen blanket, enjoying the solitude of my own thoughts. Yet, this is also a time of people coming together, being festive, and anticipating the solstice. Contrasts are good. They make me appreciate the finer parts of each. Contrasts are not good. They distract me from the stillness.

Today’s solitude is one of those contrasts, because I am home from a long weekend in New York City, and what could be a greater contrast to my life here than the bustle of the city? I’ve left most of my city life far behind me, but I cherish visiting with a good friend, laughing ourselves silly and talking ourselves hoarse. This year we visited three holiday markets, and as always, found the Union Square market the most festive and beautiful.

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There is nothing more joyful than colorful lights on a dark night. It’s what we do best at this time of year.

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I have not had an easy time coming into inner stillness this year.  Have I been too restless to find the wisdom that lives deep within the heart? It’s always possible that the serenity of the stillness itself is the only gift.

Little did I imagine that wisdom would arrive with such clarity on a noisy and crowded subway platform.

There were three young men hanging out at the end of the platform, in the narrow section just before the stairs. They were not exactly blocking the way, but they were hanging out with a bit of attitude, in a way that didn’t give us room to pass. I didn’t say anything, but I looked right into the eyes of one of the young men and smiled.

He smiled back at me, and they rearranged themselves so that we could walk to the stairs.

Never underestimate the power of a smile.

With all the tension in the world right now, it is easy to become separated from each other.

A smile can bring us back together.