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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

In celebration of 2015

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A year of my life

I can see that I’ve found my way again as a weaver. Perhaps I was never really lost, but there were so many obstacles, whether real or perceived, for so many years, that I had begun to doubt.

In no particular order, this is what I wove

  • 3 small tapestries
  • 1 baby blanket
  • 4 placemats
  • 1 pillow cover
  • 3 mug rugs (and 9 more to be hemmed)
  • 3 tea towels
  • 3 potholders to match the tea towels
  • Assorted bands
  • 1 scarf
  • 2 baskets
  • 1 bowl
  • 1 doll
  • 1 amulet bag
  • 1 place setting bag

I also knit a pair of fingerless mitts. They count because the knitting class was at Vävstuga, my favorite weaving school.

This was also the year where I refined my herd of looms, giving Honey (Schacht Standard) a big hug and letting her set out on adventures of her own, and welcoming Juliet (Glimåkra Julia) to the studio. I also welcomed a new tapestry loom, band heddles, and a Norwegian cradle loom.

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.

***

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.

Celebrating the work of other artisans

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Everything on my kitchen table is handmade, and none of it by me. It feels good to appreciate and to support the work of others that I admire.

Highlighting what is new–a gorgeous block weave tablecloth by one of my favorite weavers, Beverly Bowman of Northampton. Beverly is a Vävstuga alumna and her work is just wonderful. The mug and muffin plate are by Leona Arthen of Triskele Design. I love the playful snowflakes in the blue glaze on the plate. Pottery is a very mysterious thing, and even the potter can be surprised by the transformations that happen in the kiln. In addition to being a potter, Leona is also a spinner, weaver, knitter and painter.

Hurry! You can make it to the Hilltown Artisans sale, which runs until 4PM today (Nov 14) and from 10-4 tomorrow. It’s at the Worthington Town Hall.

Not wasting the daylight

Most years, I complain about the return to Standard Time. This year, I decided to do something about it. I have chosen to keep Atlantic Standard Time, which means that I didn’t turn my clock back an hour.

There are a few more weeks of glorious late afternoon sun, and I don’t want to waste a minute of it.

Must I really go there?

Tomorrow I have to slip quietly out of the best paradise I have known and spend a few days at a professional conference, working hard to wring a few drops of knowledge from the ego-saturated self-important blather that characterizes this sort of event. The culture shift is going to be painful.

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Here at Buttonwood, in my beloved hills, we are plain folk. When firewood needs to be stacked, as mine did yesterday, we just stack it, quickly and efficiently. We do not produce a 45 page PowerPoint, complete with graphs and charts, that impresses no one. The essence of stacking wood is this. Wear gloves and sturdy boots, stack the wood off the ground, and keep the face plumb.

Yes, stacking wood is part of my paradise. So is knitting warm mittens, washing a fleece that will someday be a cosy shawl, visiting the NY Sheep and Wool festival in Rhinebeck, and savoring the beauty of autumn leaves.

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It’s not a completely solitary paradise, for Rhinebeck is always combined with a visit from a good friend, and a chance to be among many creative people. My own creative time is punctuated with the camaraderie of my spinning circle. Today, I am going to a house raising. There’s a sense of urgency surrounding this.

Winter is coming.

 

peaceful dwelling

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In Japanese, the word for peaceful dwelling is ango and in accordance with my zen roots, ango is a time for spiritual practice and learning. It’s traditionally associated with the rainy season, and where I live, fall seems like the right time for ango. Many Buddhist communities have a period of intense practice and learning from Sept 8 to Dec 8.

Being me, dates are a vague concept and I am better attuned to the seasons, so my time for turning inward begins with the equinox and goes to the solstice. More or less. Give or take.

Zen and weaving are so much alike to me that I feel little difference between time spent weaving and time spent sitting in meditation. My zen isn’t all that orthodox to begin with; I benefit more from the writings of Thich Nhat Hanh than from Dogen. The sangha that I held most dear was the one that met in an ordinary living room in a house overlooking the harbor. Yet, I began my practice in a Soto Zen center. More or less. Give or take.

This year finds me under the Soto Zen umbrella again, not  participating in a formal ango, but following along in my own way.

Most days, I listen to a brief dharma talk and then let the wisdom soak into me while I sit on the cushion or work mindfully in the studio. I may go back to my old habit of facing my cushion toward the trees and sky, rather than a blank wall. There is no bell tower here, but the bell tower had no bell, so it is all the same.

being September

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I wore autumn clothes for the first time today. Summer has been strange, arriving late and refusing to let go. Maybe Autumn will do the same thing.

There are early fallen leaves on my balconies and deck, crunchy and fragrant under foot.

The second harvest is days away. I am thinking about what I have gathered in, what is ripe and wondrous, and what didn’t quite thrive. In the real garden, all I can claim is a bumper crop of chives, and an odd collection of weeds that look quite pretty together under the magnolia tree.

I have fared a bit better this year, still healing from old injuries, walking more and sometimes breaking into a slow and cautious run. I had no expectations that the odd bit of running would be possible, and never dreamed that it would feel good. My knees aren’t completely on board with the idea yet, but I can deal with their quiet muttering and cursing. They are never completely happy. Nor are the fragile parts of my right foot, but cradled by a good orthotic and promised that we will not walk on unyielding concrete like we did in the city, even they have become more cooperative and less truculent. I think this slow truce with my body comes from the things I have learned from the Dharma, like being present and not having expectations.

My creative harvest is strong and colorful. There have been projects going on and off the looms at a sustainable rate, though I would love to see projects on all three floor looms before the third harvest. It may happen. I am winding  a warp for napkins to go on Juliet, the newest Julia, and trying to decide if a winter blanket or a rug will be next up on Per, the big Standard. The blanket makes the most sense, because I have so many partial cones of Colrain Lace that I would like to use up. I wonder if I have enough?

If I weave two panels, there will be less loom waste and I can wind all sorts of random stripes, two cones at a time, and still have a symmetric blanket. I don’t mind having a seam up the middle. No fringe. It tickles the nose, and teases the cats. Hems are more practical.

This is a good mindset for the second harvest, rooted in the present, but thinking about the cold days to come.