Yeah, it is a form of resistance

Aside

I’ve been making a few tweaks to older posts, changing units of measure from English to metric.

I have never understood why the metric system failed to take root in the US. It’s logical. It’s the international standard. We are not so special that we should have our own system of measurements. Even England abandoned the English measures years ago.

It seems desperately important to me to embrace the metric system at the moment. Under the current regime, the US is hell-bent on becoming more insular, more dumbed-down, and more out of touch with reality. No thanks.

Most of my weaving equipment is metric to begin with, except for a couple of ’48/10′ reeds that I keep for weaving US patterns. I may ditch those in favor of proper 50/10 reeds, because so many US weaving patterns have mushy setts to begin with and could benefit from 2 more ends per cm.

Metric reeds, for those who do not use them, are measured in ends per 10 cm. To convert to a US reed size, divide the first number by 4.

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.

 

peaceful dwelling

Aside

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

Aside

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.

the woman in grey and violet

Aside

It’s been a while since I thought about her, but the colors I have been weaving brought back the memory of a chance encounter from many years ago.

As an empath, I am hyper-sensitive to the emotional states of others in close proximity. Sometimes it feels like my own thoughts and memories get flooded away by theirs. You can imagine the kinds of thoughts flying around in a broken-down subway car during the morning rush.

Except the woman in grey and violet. She was wearing lagenlook, comfortable, wrinkled linen. She was stunningly beautiful with her tumble of grey curls, minimal makeup, and calm smile. Such a contrast from the aggressive suits and heels that most of the women were wearing.

I smiled back, and let her thoughts wash over me, relaxed, ego-less and practical.

Over the years, I’ve tried to become the person I think she is.

Soon, I will be weaving a figure that represents the wiser self. I think I know who she will look like.

thinking about the past year

Aside

It’s inevitable, isn’t it? A line was drawn across the face of time, and we invariably look back after crossing it.

So, I am going to indulge in a bit of a look backwards. It’s been a unique and memorable year, with the new studio and new looms. On a more subtle level, i feel there’s a newer, more confidant Weaver, too.

Getting back to Basics at Vävstuga was important in shaping my newfound confidence. I know I used to dread winding a warp and putting it on the loom. It seemed like it took forever and it wasn’t pleasurable. Oh, how that has changed!

Having a warping mill has been a great time-saver. Even though my shoulder and arm have grown so much stronger that I can almost forget that they were ever injured, warping wasn’t really painless or quick until I started using the mill.

When I used to warp from front-to-back, I spent a lot of time dealing with tangles in the warp. Now that I use weights to keep the warp under even tension, I don’t get the tangles that I used to. I warp back to front, and I find the process easy and intuitive. It even works on Honey, my dear old jack loom.

Having the right looms makes a difference. I love my Glimåkras, and I am still in love with my Schacht.

Who knew that everything would come together for me last year? I thought it would have happened the previous year, when I took my retreat year at Sparrow Hill. No, it took me another year; I had to get beyond the reality that Sparrow Hill was just another way station.

I had to find a place called home. Then, anything was possible.

Deep in the spiral of midwinter, wrapped in The Lady’s warm cloak, I see the essential truth in this as a precious gift. Art can grow out of tension and desperation, but is this the kind of art that inspires or sustains you? Out of peace and contentment, a different kind of art emerges. This is the art that feeds your soul and quiets your mind.

Ive spent many days in the past few weeks at the loom, just weaving, just meditating on the breath. It’s basic and fundamental. It’s what makes me whole.

 

stop and admire your work

Aside

A thoughtful post by Laura Fry on her blog reminded me of some advice I used to offer to my knitting circle.

Stop at the end of the row and admire your work.

It’s a very mindful way to approach your work, and this tiny pause is just enough time to see what you just completed in the context of the previous work. It’s also an amazing way to identify a mistake before you go on several inches beyond it.

In weaving, I don’t always stop after each pick, but I will if the draft is complex or I am weaving the first repeat and checking for threading errors. On something simple, I’ll stop to admire when I have to move the temple or advance the warp.

By setting out to admire the work, you are treating it with respect. Even if you do find something that needs correcting, it’s all done in the spirit of respect for your weaving.

Honorable cloth, you are the fabric of life. My mindful presence acknowledges this.

my clothes dryer is fine, but I should have my head examined

Aside

It poured rain all day on Friday, as the fringes of a tropical storm passed by.  I decided to do some woodworking in the basement, and since I was downstairs already, to do a couple of loads of laundry at the same time. The workbench and the laundry are in the same large room in the basement.

The woodworking project was to sand and apply danish oil to a huge wooden button that was destined to hang over my mantle, a visual word-play on Buttonwood. The button came out beautifully. The laundry, not so much.

The laundry came out of the dryer smelling like sooty fuel oil. What was up with that? I didn’t think propane was capable of smelling like that. Was my new dryer not working right?

A quick web search turned up a very accusatory question.  WERE YOU VARNISHING SOMETHING? How did they know? It turns out that running your gas dryer with the scent of varnish in the air creates the stink of burnt varnish fumes on your laundry. Who knew?

I’m just glad I didn’t explode the entire basement. I love the scent of varnish so much that I didn’t think about the dangerous fumes.

Let this be a cautionary tale.

A leg on each corner

Aside

I was all set to re-thread the long black warp for I Am HOME, until I was about to sit down and start threading. I looked around the room and wondered: sit on what? The dining chairs I used to use, with legs slender enough to stand between the treadles, are long gone, purposefully left behind when I moved. This is going to be interesting. The dining room chairs at Sparrow Hill came with the house, and are of the wrong type, with the metal shaped into sides rather than individual legs. Maybe, just maybe, my slipper chair can be trundled downstairs. Hidden beneath the upholstery skirt, it has short but slender legs.

When studio and home blend seamlessly together, it’s easy to forget that something like a dining room chair is an essential part of the weaving process.

All in good time, because there’s a new loom in the house…

Still unpacking

Aside

I’m still taking stuff out of boxes and trying to fit it into the new puzzle that is Sparrow Hill, the house that is currently called home. Unpacking is an interesting process when everything was boxed up at lightening speed by a crew of strangers who knew little about the textile arts. A box that was marked as loom parts contained a spinning wheel, and most of the small looms got boxed up generically as art supplies.

I want to do this right, examining everything and deciding whether I still need to keep it. It’s a balancing act between not being wasteful and not being encumbered by stuff. It’s OK to have things if you use them.

I have discovered things that I had long forgotten, like a small pile of silk and linen that I dyed blue with indigo. I am being drawn back to the dye pot, back to working with indigo and madder. I’ve been talking about these dyes again, thinking out loud. “But what about yellow?” asked a friend who has just started dying silk fiber.  I just gestured to the meadow. Yellow is out there.