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.

 

Wicked productive

Said with my best approximation of a Massachusetts accent, of course. It is the place I call home now, so I might as well use the local idiom.

I have been wicked productive in the past few weeks. My winter study project in the Swedish art weaves of the Skåne region is off the loom. Yes, it ran long past winter, but I was having such fun with it. I am thrilled to see the fabric, because it was woven face down. It’s fabric for a tote bag. This is the front

IMG_6792The plainer design at the bottom is for the back of the tote.IMG_6790Another project from the winter is finally done. You may recall this shawl, called Opposites Attract. I’m going to appreciate its thickness and warmth on a cold winter’s day. Today, I am content to drape it over a chair in the library and enjoy the warmth of a fine June day.

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What’s happening in the studio?

I still have warp for more Swedish art weaves on the 4-shaft Julia. The other Julia is set up to weave the wide border for my Stjerne coverlet.  Three yards done, and four to go. Per, my big old Standard, is naked, as is often the case, but there is something very exciting in his future. I have purchased a ‘harnesk’  or single-unit drawloom! There are some minor technical difficulties in getting the loom extension set up.  Per is a non-standard Standard. There are loom parts all over the studio right now. It looks like a loom exploded in there.

I have fallen in love with weaving damask, and am so excited that I will be able to do it in my own studio. Here are two pieces that I wove at Vävstuga Weaving School a few weeks ago.

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Winter is over, but my project rolls on

I’m still weaving on my ‘winter’ project of Swedish art weaves. It’s been nearly impossible to share what I have woven, because these techniques are woven face down. I only had small glimpses of what my work looked like until it came so far over the beam that I could peer down at it.

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It is to be a small cushion cover, and I’m currently weaving a simple striped length for the back.

I’m not sure when this warp will be off the loom. If there will be enough left, I want to keep weaving. Halvkrabba pin cushions? Fabric for a small purse?

With certainty, yet open to what comes along

It’s January, and that means winter project time for me. Last year, I had no idea what I wanted to do, and ended up making my studio a more efficient work space. No wonder I wove so many things last year.

This year, I am very excited about my project. I am going to study Swedish art weaves: halvkrabba, krabbasnår, dukagång and rölakan. I am slightly familiar with rölakan, because it is interlocking tapestry, woven on a floor loom.

I have a sampler project from a back issue of Väv magazine as my starting point, If I like the experience and am pleased with what I’ve woven, I may mirror the sampler to create a long cushion for one of my weaving benches. If not, it could become a square cushion or a bag. I am open to all the possibilities.

The warp has been wound and is ready to beam on, and. I have ordered the yarn from Vävstuga. I am poised to begin.

All of this is possible because I am attuned to the rhythm of this place that is my home and studio. I know more about the person I am and the weaver that I’ve become. One of the strangest realizations is that I have absolutely no creative energy in November and December. The ever shortening daylight during that time sends me into a fog, and all I can do is wrap in a blanket, meditate and make gossamer plans. Now that the winter solstice is past, I can feel my energy returning and I am capable of a little more action.

as winter projects go

As winter projects go, much like the winter itself, they go on and on, spilling past their boundaries like a wash of color on thirsty paper. My studio space is in much better order than it was at the beginning of the year. I do have the winding station and warping mill in reasonable proximity, which makes the warping process more efficient. It does not, however, keep the cats from attacking the thread as it unwinds from the cones.

I also have begun the task of refurbishing my warping mill, which suffered a small amount of water damage from bringing it home in the bed of a pickup truck in a nor’easter. I gently sanded off the old finish, which was not a varnish, but the patina of age, use and furniture wax. The wood still has much of the rich tones of aged Swedish pine. I don’t know if I’ll put a thin layer of varnish on it, or just wax it and let the patina rebuild itself.

While I was in the middle of sanding, I took a call from another weaver in this small town. She is downsizing her studio and offered me a warping mill. I am going to take it, because it has two crossbars and mine only has one. There is a way to wind a long warp with a cross at each end, and then cut it into two perfectly symmetrical sections. She also offered me a Glimakra Standard, which I am not going to take. The studio would be painfully crowded if I did.

The planet Mercury has been in retrograde since January 21. It appears to be moving in the opposite direction, but that’s an illusion. Nonetheless, astrologers credit this phenomenon, which happens three times in a year, with bringing up things from the recent past, causing miscommunications and misunderstandings, and even the breakdown of electronic devices. I feel like the sudden appearance of another warping mill and Glimakra standard comes from this retrograde activity. Or is my warping mill inhabited by a genie who loves the tickle of sandpaper, and grants me another warping mill in return for all that gentle sanding?

If we would just get a long break between snow storms, I might have time to ponder this and life’s other mysteries.

 

A study in winter’s peace

Most years, I choose a very specific study project for the month of January. This year, I couldn’t come up with one structured thing that I was intent upon learning. I thought I might do a design project, from inspiration to finished project, but most of my drawing supplies are still waiting to be unpacked and it turned out that I wasn’t really in the mood to do anything very structured at all.

What I wanted to do more than anything was work on making my studio the most comfortable and inviting place to work, and also put projects on all the looms. The studio has been functional, mostly unpacked, but not really efficient or cozy. It needs more shelving space, and I need to unpack a few more boxes and banish others to the places where they belong. Making it cozy could be as simple as adding a tiny table next to the hemming chair, so that I can enjoy my tea while I hem.

Making it efficient means getting the warping mill and the winding station in the same general area, and finding a place to store the excessive amount of spinning fiber that I bought a few years ago.

I am going to cheat a bit and put a few of the small but difficult boxes under the bed for now. They’re difficult because they don’t contain any one thing, and what the contain needs to be gone through paper by paper, sorted, tied with pretty ribbons (or handwoven bands?), and labeled. These boxes don’t belong in the studio, but when I lived in The Aerie, the storage for bedroom and studio was combined, and so I have studio things mixed into the ephemera of my life. I bought a stack of three pretty cardboard ‘suitcases’ to use as a side table next to my bedroom chair, and ultimately the things worth keeping will go there.

In the snow-filled peace of winter, I’ve been able to figure out why these boxes have lingered for months past my arrival at Buttonwood, and now I have a rough idea how I can deal with them. That may be more valuable to me right now than any study project.

pattern, color and a big picture view

January is a long way away, but I think I have the inspiration for my upcoming winter study. Long term readers will remember that I pick a topic of interest and devote the month of January to an independent study. Last year’s study was a high level introduction to the weaving techniques and styles of Sweden. The previous year was cloth to cloth, and so on.

This year, I want to poke at my discontent with pattern in weaving. You already know that I am not a fan of fancy twill, or plaid. I prefer to use color rather than pattern to make a statement, and I like to color outside the lines!

I am a fan of asymmetry and when I combine pattern and color, I expect each of them to move in their own direction, singing in harmony but not in unison.

Since the idea of this self-study just occurred to me today, I don’t know what shape it will take. It’s certainly drawing me back to many of the practices of fashion design that I learned as a student at Parsons School of Design. Why did I not think that these practices apply equally to things I weave?

First, there’s the inspiration, captured in a mood board. Let’s say I’m designing a scarf.  What inspires my colors? Who is the person who might wear the scarf and what is her attitude when she wears it?  What about her accessories, her favorite places and spaces? What shoes does she wear? What’s a playlist of her favorite music?

Then, I should start sketching the scarf, blocking in the idea of pattern and color with broad strokes, and most importantly, sketching how it will look when worn. Is there a way to wear it that showcases the pattern best? Does an entire collection emerge from the inspiration, with alternate colors and coordinating pieces. Does the scarf engender some knitwear, a coat, or a tote bag? Does all of this have a name?

It’s going to be fun, this time around. I won’t be working on an academic deadline, and I don’t have to design for the mainstream fashion industry.

Reality should come next, with a technical drawing and a spec sheet.This is where the draft gets created and the real colors of yarn would be chosen. Look at how much has gone before this point… Why would I think that this is where the process begins?

It’s been said before that when you change one part of a known process, the whole process flow evaporates until you get beyond the newness of that one part. I guess I’m at a point with my weaving that I can welcome the familiar flow back, but on my terms this time.

In Saori weaving, some of the process is there, but mostly in my head. The mood board is a big part of my Saori vision, but I was still working from the finished fabric backwards to the clothing design. Just for once, I’d like to visualize the clothing and then weave the fabric. Even if the nuances change, even if I don’t do the technical drawing, I want to weave the fabric that lives in my dreams.