Back to Craft, Urgently

So a couple of Saturdays ago, a field trip that I organized for my local almost-spinning-guild finally happened. Four of us met at Webs (America’s largest yarn store – and they’re not kidding) for 9am, and we carpooled up to Northfield to Balky Farm, and another of our group met us there. The original plan had been to go see the sheep shearing and then look through/buy fleeces fresh off the sheep. But the shearer arrived on Friday and had brought an apprentice, which meant that the usual two-day job took only one day for all 140+ sheep. When we arrived, we realized this had been completely serendipitous – the shearer, apprentice, shepherd skirting, the sheep and then our group would never have fit in the barn. We would have absolutely been in the way!

Instead, we naturally took up all the space going through the boxes and boxes of fleeces.

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I can’t adequately express how many fleeces there were. Maybe a hundred? Those are my hands and Rachel’s hands inspecting fleeces – picture shot by Liz (thanks, Liz!!)

These fleeces are large. They are beautiful. They are some cross of varying amounts of Shetland/Dorset/Finn/Romney/Cheviot, not necessarily with all of those breeds in there. There were a LOT of sheep, so there were a LOT of fleeces. The five of us went through them all. So. Much. Wool.

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I believe this is one that Liz bought – a Cheviot fleece. Thanks for the photo, Liz!

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I can’t remember whose fleece pile this was, but this gives you a bit of an idea of what we were doing – all these on this skirting table went home with us. (Photo by Liz – thanks, Liz!)

 

 

Stewart sends some of his fleeces to Prince Edward Island to one of the remaining mills there where his wool is processed and woven into blankets. He sells these at the markets he vends. The shears are what the sheep were shorn with –  that makes for very strong hands! And in the bottom picture, you can see many, many happy sheep out in the spring sunshine chomping up new grass. Thank you, sheep!

The shepherd, Stewart Balk, keeps these sheep as a labour of love. He explained to me that his father loved shepherding with all his heart, and Stewart grew to love it as well. He does have another job that I am given to understand pays other bills, and the sales from the farm keep it going. The five of us want to keep this farm going, so we plan to support it as best we can. Very local wool from sheep kept by the happiest shepherd I have ever met, and those of us who visited this farm came away enchanted and determined to make Beautiful Things with the fleeces we bought!

I bought two. I had planned to buy only one, but came away with two. I don’t know what I was thinking. We’ve already made plans to visit the farm next year.

Of course I started to wash them. Yes, I’m packing up my stuff to move in a couple of weeks, but I figured I could at least start washing one of them and see what it would look like. So in went a couple of large handfuls.

 

So on the left, the orange bucket is either the wash water or the initial soak water – I can’t remember, and honestly, both looked very similar when I was done with them. I had started with the white fleece, which you can sort of see a bit of in the bag next to the blue bucket. SO DIRTY. This white fleece is so much whiter than it looked fresh off the sheep. The middle picture shows a bit of clean fleece. I know, I know, it doesn’t look clean, but trust me, it’s squeaky. It no longer smells of sheep, and the remaining vegetable matter is easily combed out. The picture on the right is of the dark grey fleece – I have not washed any of that yet so that luster in that picture is actually mostly lanolin, but watch out. If this cleans as nicely as the white, this is going to be an utterly gorgeous grey.

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I left this picture large so you can see how fluffy this wool is! I combed it, and although there are still tiny bits of VM left, they’ll come out with spinning. This wool is SO SOFT.

Okay, so I just couldn’t wait. I took the top that I’m holding in the picture above and spun it, then chain plied it so I didn’t have to muck about with multiple bobbins and swapping them around (I have a project on the spinning wheel and I didn’t want to change anything). Behold my three ply yarn!

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It’s not perfectly spun – but that’s not the point! The point was to get an idea of what a finished yarn would look like. This yarn is the softest, most delicious I’ve ever spun. See that faint sheen? That’s the luster, and I can promise you that that’s no lanolin shining because I washed it all out. That’s the shine of the natural fiber!

Possibly tonight or tomorrow (in any event, this weekend), I will wash this wee skein. Yes, this wool has already been washed, but after it’s spun and plied, it should be set in some warm water (and sometimes soap or detergent). This causes the fibers to relax into the finished yarn, so there’s some fluffing up that happens called bloom. If there’s any residual lanolin, which is often the case, or other substance (for example, combing milk, which aids in keeping static at bay when you’re combing), that’s the time to remove it. This has neither, but it still needs to relax and bloom. This step can also involve some agitation, which can slightly felt the fibers resulting in a tweedy or otherwise more sturdy yarn. It’s all about what you’re after as a finished yarn in that case. Because I’m pretty sure I want to weave with this yarn, I will probably not add any huge amount of agitation. I love the luster, and there will be further wet finishing when the cloth is woven and off the loom, so.

I promise to take a picture and post it next time! And hopefully, I can get a few handfuls of the grey washed, combed and spun so I can get an idea of what that’s going to look like.

Honestly, creating this wee skein was a balm to my soul. I have so much to do, but took about 30 minutes to make some yarn. I can’t wait until I have a space and the time to have the option to decide to make something on the weekend without a giant list of must-get-done’s looming.

I am still trying to spin for a few minutes every evening before I go to bed to try to make progress on the blue merino wool I’ve got:

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I’ve added a bit of extra twist in here because I know I have a habit of underspinning, and this yarn will be a true three-ply. I have no idea what I’ll do with it! We’ll see what it looks like when I’m done.

I know that yarn looks mighty thin – I’m inspired by my friend Rachel who spins the most gorgeous cobweb-thin yarn. I want to spin just like her when I grow up so that I can weave beautiful, drapey wool cloth!

By the way, if you want to see the size of some of the fleeces and really gorgeous close up photos of the locks, you should ABSOLUTELY go visit Rachel’s Instagram page! Just go. Look. You will not be disappointed. I promise!

The Freak-Out Explanation and Update

So, after three weeks of freaking out, not sleeping, crying all the time, feeling the cold hard edge of panic just a breath away from absolutely slicing me open, I went to an appointment to meet my oncologist. I had thought this was to discuss genetic testing, possibly get blood drawn for that, and to discuss the medication I’d be going on after my surgery.

What happened was that I found out things had been done backwards.

It’s not that I got good news, it’s that I got the news I should have gotten before having the meeting with the surgeon and nurse when I was given two choices: lumpectomy with radiation, bilateral mastectomy. Instead of my radical choice, I’ve been put on tamoxifen for the time being, I will get genetic testing sometime in the next few weeks, and after getting the results I will have lots of time to decide what to do next. The tamoxifen will keep any cancer from progressing and that gives me time. I did not have this exact information before.

It’s been hard to disseminate this information among my friends. I’m so tired and worn out and I just don’t want to talk about it anymore. But I realized after a few people had seemed relieved at this bit of a reprieve, and then said almost as an aside that my initial course of action seemed kind of rash, that that initial decision had not been not received in the proper context. It may be that I will never be able to convey that context, but I thought I should try. I want to be understood, and I want people in my position to be understood. There really is logic behind the freak-out, and I almost feel like some of the comments about my rashness are a bit of a negative commentary on my character.

When I was seven years old, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. I remember the trip to the doctor. My brother and I stayed in the car while our parents went in to the office. It was just about 1980 and kids could stay in the car unattended for an hour while no one batted an eyelash. The one very clear memory I had was of my mother walking out of the office on her way back to the car, leaning on my father, crying her eyes out. She was to have a mastectomy right away. Chemo would come. Radiation would come. My mother, being very conscientious, had me feel the lump she had found before surgery so I’d know what to look for when I grew up. It was about the size of a pea and hard.

The next two years were awful, and I can’t even imagine what it was like for my mother. She went through several rounds of chemotherapy, and a few rounds of radiation. Her right breast had been removed, the lymphnodes removed, and that side of her had been radiated so much that her skin had turned black and blistery. Her hair fell out. She vomited more often than she ate. She slept on the couch all the time, and tried hard not to take the morphine she’d been prescribed because it made her hallucinate. There were special heating pads my father would prepare for her by dropping them in boiling water and then, fishing them out of the pot again, wrapping them in towels to lay on her chest and arm.

She lost weight, became gaunt and slightly yellow, and she smelled different. I realized years later that she smelled sick. I don’t remember her crying as much as you’d expect, and she tried hard to be a good mother to my brother and me even though she could barely get up off the couch.

The cancer spread. I learned the word “metastasized” when I was 8 years old. She would spend a couple of weeks in the hospital at a time. Sometimes a month. She died there in the wee hours of the morning, and her mother, our grandmother who was staying with us at the time, took the phone call. Grandma told my brother and me later that morning when we woke up. It was a Saturday and it was June 5, 1982, and my mother had just turned 42 three weeks earlier.

I was nine years old. I have been worrying about breast cancer for almost exactly 37 years. Since then, I’ve kept my eyes open for scientific articles about cancer, I’ve tried to eat right and exercise, I’ve avoided things that might cause cancer, I’ve just assumed that I would reach about 42 years of age and then my number would be up. I know medicine is much different now – intellectually, I know this. I have read about it, I have read the clinical trial information that had been translated for filing the trial results with the FDA at my last job* (it was for this study), PET scans are a thing now, genes have been found, genomes have been sequenced…but when you’re 7 and you watch the most important person in your life literally wither and die because of a thing called cancer, it changes you on a level that stays with you always. I can’t imagine a different life, and I know people who have not experienced this cannot understand mine. So when I was told I had cancer, and days later was whisked into a conference room with a surgeon, and a nurse, and I was given a choice of what to do with the information I had, there was no amount of “but medicine has come such a long way, you’re not going to die” that was going to quiet the crying, worrying child inside of me. Instantly, I wanted to get that cancer out and all possibility of it ever coming back, so of course I chose bilateral mastectomy. It was visions of my mother’s blackened chest, her sickly smell, and her death that rose up in me when I was told I had to make a choice.

I am not freaking out as much now. The words have lost some of their power as I’ve gotten used to them, and the oncologist’s information was what I needed. I may still get a bilateral mastectomy, or I may just opt for the lumpectomy. I don’t know yet. Either way, I’m on tamoxifen for at least 5 years. I am so tired, and still so sad, and so worried. In between, I am packing to move, and I’m trying so hard to not worry about everything else.

Thank you, dear readers, for trying to understand. I promise to write more about things I am making.

 

 

 

* Although I had read in depth about tamoxifen at that job, I did not fully understand what it did. While I may have read the patient information leaflet original and translation, I sort of think I only read the prescribing information in the clinical trial data, and the treatment results. If you think that’s relevant information for when you get cancer, I invite you to read the doctor information leaflet for ibuprofen that contains all the side effect and adverse event information, and all the statistics – I guarantee you’ll never take it again, especially if you’re not a statistician. And you won’t remember what ibuprofen is actually for because you’ll be focused on terms like “coffee grounds vomit” and “liver failure”.

It’s unfair

Since the last entry, I’ve been working hard to find a house to buy. The weekends have been filled with open houses, drive bys, and going to see other houses with my real estate agent. I’ve been looking in three counties up to within minutes of the VT border to minutes within the CT border. So far, nothing I can afford.

I’ve started knitting socks again because I needed something to do that was fairly mindless when I have a spare fifteen minutes before bed.

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Sock #1 finished. Stripey goodness.

In the meantime, my health has come to the forefront in a very abrupt and startling way. On April 15th, I got an MRI guided breast biopsy – my second in the last year – which was painful and scary. A week later, I got the results: I have breast cancer.

For those of you who have known me for years, you know this is one of my very worst fears. I am trying to be brave. It was caught very early, the prognosis is very good, but I am scared. There are a couple of options for treatment, and I have chosen to get a bilateral mastectomy. This cancer is very much genetic – my mother and her mother both had cancer. My mother died. I want to live. And I don’t want this fucking cancer to have any possible foothold to come back.

Everything starts in about a month. House hunting has been put on hold, I will move to a friend’s house so that I am not alone, where I do not have to worry about house things, and where there’s internet access so I can still work remotely. I am scrambling now to get everything set up: fix my car, get new glasses, find boxes, pack up all my belongings (hopefully donating some), getting things at work ready for me to be out of commission for a while, etc. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but it is. I hate moving. I hate that I don’t really have a choice about the best course of action.

So this blog will probably not be updated regularly. Or maybe it will? Perhaps I will have enough energy the first month to knit a pair of socks, or draw a picture, or embroider a thing. Something that won’t require a lot of energy. I don’t know. I will gather a small amount of things I think I might be able to work with during recovery and put them aside just in case.

I am scared. I am grieving the coming loss of part of my body. I am so angry that this is happening – I spent the last 30 years trying to avoid cancer by eating right, exercising, getting enough sleep, not drinking, not smoking, etc etc. Turns out, even if you do all the right things, you can still get cancer.

 

 

Hard times

I have not really been making much for a while. I knit a cowl last month, and I’m repairing a rip in a pair of jeans for a friend of mine (trying out a version of sashiko stitching). I’m about to rip out that pair of socks I’d been knitting for aaaaages so that I can cast on in my regular, plain-ole vanilla pattern instead, which I can almost knit while sleeping. I knit a hat for my cello teacher because he needed one. I was home sick for three days a few weeks ago, and started spinning a bag of merino that someone gave me because that’s all I could do while sick, but that’s fallen by the wayside, too.

The constant has been cello, which I practice nearly two hours daily during the week and until my bow hand gets tired on the weekends, which ends up being about 3 or 4 hours daily. When I can. This has been the constant because, I think, there are limited materials required, I am very much in the habit of getting up at dark thirty o’clock to practice, and it is a thing I must answer for at my weekly lesson.

My all-encompassing project, though, is finding a place to live, and I can’t really stop until it happens.

Originally, I wanted to keep this blog about making things: the things I am making, the things I made, and the things I want to make. But this is getting to be really difficult. It occurred to me recently that perhaps things that interrupt the making deserve a part of the spotlight precisely because of the interruption.

I suppose I could call it a project of its own, but it feels much to awful for that. Many people would be delighted with this adventure, but I can only say that there is a constant daily dread. Our culture is set up to really cater to couples – my income times two would very easily afford to buy a house in the area I am in now. My single income will not. Or, rather, it might, but the resulting house would require an awful lot of work, which makes it nearly as expensive as a house that does not require so much work. So, I am forced to look outside of this area, and as the market gets more expensive and I am unable to keep up (even though I put away an astonishing percentage of my paycheck every month), I must look further afield. I will still have to buy a fixer-upper.

I dread moving to the places I don’t want to live in. The list of criteria has been stripped away – the important bits now are: heating system, roof, windows, amount of water in basement, quality and current state of foundation, property tax rate. I will don’t want to live in the woods, but I no longer care about the square footage, as long as it’s not over 1200sq feet, because heat is expensive.

Why don’t I just rent? Theoretically, I should be retiring in a mere twenty years (yes, I am looking at a 30 year mortgage, and my retirement account is laughably small), and rents around here are the same or more than a mortgage payment. Why didn’t I start looking earlier? I didn’t start a professional job until I was in my mid 30s, having started college late (finances), and then graduate school late (finances), and then paying off loans (this past August – hooray – more finances). I don’t have a television, so no cable, no internet access, no stereo system, a second hand cell phone on a no contract plan with very limited data, no landline, no makeup, no clothes shopping unless something is no longer repairable, no vacations anywhere, I don’t go to the movies, nothing extra. I fix my own car. “Splurging” means buying a coffee and pastry in the morning at the bakery down the street, or a ball of yarn to knit socks from. I’ve stopped buying weaving supplies unless it’s for a paying job. Which I don’t have time for now anyway.

I could rent. But would likely have to give up cello. Which would allow me to afford slightly more house, but then I would still be without the cello. It would be very sad, but I am considering it.

I need to move. It’s getting really urgent. I’m looking at houses every weekend, driving by on my lunch hour, looking at listings every morning and every evening. No time. Doing chores around the house, trying to do the necessary yard work, trying to sleep enough. No time.

Basically, all of the projects I was working on have come to a screaming halt. I owe people things, and I have no time to work on them. I am so sorry, people I owe things to. I hope you can understand.

And if anyone knows of someone who wants to sell their house for cheap near me in Western Massachusetts to someone who needs one and will really take care of it and love it, I am here.

 

Weavin’, weavin’, weavin’

I’m definitely getting faster at this. Of course, having the “you’re going to get paid for this, make the client super happy” kind of fire under your butt is a pretty good motivator.

Friday morning before going to my day job:

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I got this tied on and started throwing the shuttle Friday morning before work. Sigh – there are so many threading errors.

Friday night, I discovered a threading error. I did try to fix this by making a new string heddle, tying it on, cutting the misthreaded yarn, rethreading it properly, and tying it on to the web. About five shuttle throws in, I realized that I didn’t actually put the heddle on the right shaft. But, I reasoned, this is just a sample and the threading errors don’t actually mean anything. There are plenty of other errors. You are behind schedule anyway!

I continued to throw the shuttle.

Saturday morning, I got up at dark o’thirty and threw the shuttle:

When I’d run out of warp, I cut the cloth off the loom, serged the edges, and took a lunch break. Then drove down to Webs for the cotton I needed for the omgUrgentProject!. (New cotton visible in the right hand picture.)

By Saturday late afternoon/early evening, I had started measuring:

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Compared to the linen, this cotton is SO SOFT.

Sunday morning when the sun was finally up:

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I was measuring the fourth bout when I took this picture.

Sunday about 11:00am:

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The winding begins!

I took a lunch break and started my weekly laundry, and when I was done winding on, then spent a couple of hours threading heddles. This project has 576 ends (yarns), and this step seems to be the longest.

I threw that linen sample in the wash and into the dryer to soften it up. It came out almost opposite of how it went in: stiff and something one would associate with a thin jute mat for the floor to limp, buttery soft, and almost silk-like in drape. It’s not quite what I envisioned it would be (not so fuzzy), but it will still be useful. After hemming, I will use the two pieces as dish or hand towels to see how they wear.

Around 3pm, I sat down to practice cello, and was back at the loom almost three hours later.

By Sunday evening about 8:30, I had completed threading heddles and had about 3″ worth of the warp in the reed, but had to get to bed.

Got up at 5:15 Monday morning, made tea, ate breakfast, and by 6:30, I had the reed finished and had tied on:

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By my own schedule, I’m still a day behind. I’m not sure I can catch up, but that isn’t going to stop me from trying. Last night, when I got home from work, I made a quick supper, and got to work: measure and put on a floating selvedge, add weights to the warp on the selvedges, start throwing the shuttle.

This part is super exciting, because throwing the shuttle is where you finally get to see the pattern happen, but also where you get to see if you made a threading or sleying error. Turns out, I made a sleying error. It was not too hard to fix, but it did cost me about 30 minutes.

By about 8:00 last night:

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I’m very pleased with how this is turning out. I had forgotten how lovely unmercerized cotton is – it’s soft and drapey and very forgiving in the selvedges in a way linen just isn’t. I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to get one towel woven every evening this week. That may be pushing it, but I have been able to weave a single towel in an hour and a half, and it’s good to have goals, right? I wanted to have all six (or nine, the whole warp) woven and hemmed in time to be mailed on Saturday afternoon, but I may have to wait until Tuesday morning. (Monday is a bank holiday.)

Fingers crossed I can weave like the wind!

 

…in which I completely freak out, then try to find a house, sew clothes, knit a sweater, hang photographs, and weave linen. (insert adjective) New Year!

So, welcome to 2019.

I’m hoping this will be the year no friends die, I find a place to live, and I manage to make a real go of this business because houses and living is expensive.

You may have been wondering where I’ve been. Yes? No? Well. I put that online shop up, and decided to hang photos in a couple of public spaces, both to show and to sell, and I ramped up the house hunt – then suddenly I had no time for anything and anxiety 24/7. And then Making came to a more or less screaming halt because anxiety stops everything. But I got through the first hurdle, which was hanging the photos at the first venue. I sold a couple, and got through that. Then, I decided it was time to Knit. Oh sure, I had weaving to do and houses to look at, but seeing as how the panic attacks were lasting all day every day, I figured I was in no frame of mind for anything, and knitting would help. It didn’t even matter what I knit as long as my hands were moving and yarn was involved. It helped.

I had picked this magazine up last January when I was out in Indiana visiting my friend Zsuzsa, and finally started knitting a thing out of it.

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This is going to be so lovely and warm! I hope. Magazine: Interweave Knits, Winter 2018

Of course, it did not start that way. I had knit up a good 14″ of the back, and even after careful measuring and swatching and consideration of the size I was aiming for, one night I was suddenly overwhelmed with the conviction that I was knitting a size TOO SMALL and WHAT WAS I THINKING. I was at my knitting group at the time, and everyone around shook their heads and patted my arm knowingly. “This is so sad,” they said. “All that work.” “But,” I said, “this is going to be a sweater for a long time. I might as well do it correctly.” And I bought two more skeins to be absolutely sure I had enough for the next size up (5″ larger in the bust. FIVE INCHES.)

The next morning, lying in bed still, I decided I should measure my favourite sweater once again, triple check the swatch I had knit, and afterwards determined that in fact I had ripped out the correct size and WHAT WAS I THINKING.

I knit it all back up again.

Fortunately, this is bulky yarn, and I knit quickly, and boy, did I need some knittin’ time. What you see in the picture above was accompanied by copious mugs of cocoa, several episodes of Foyle’s War, a season and a half of Burn Notice (I really wanted to watch Leverage, but it was not available), and some visiting with fuzzy buddies (one dog, two cats). Normally, I don’t watch television of any kind, but knitting seems to demand some light entertainment in the background. And if I am going to watch television, I’m going to need to do something other than just sit there – I get fidgety and bored.

I also have discovered that my clothes are wearing out, and since I have an intense hatred of clothes shopping, and I could hear the trousers I had started to make calling me from the corner they’d been in for more than a year, I decided to try to finish them. Here they are in an almost, very nearly finished state:

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I do love the lining!

The crotch needs adjusting, which is, I am given to understand, the hardest thing about sewing trousers. But I do love this pattern. I learned how to put in a zip fly! The only alteration I made (so far) is to the pockets: I left out the back welt pockets because they were too small to be useful, and I added THREE inches to the depth of the front pockets:

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BEHOLD! These shall be large enough to hold kittens!

They’re a good size. I can put my whole hand in and not hit the bottom. The way pockets should be. I may add patch pockets to the butt (like jeans) later – those are sometimes useful.

I really can’t wait until these are done and wearable. I’m excited about having a new sweater and a new pair of trousers!

I did get my button down shirt muslin out too to try on again to make sure it still fit. It does! Well. The bodice portion fits perfectly, which I am intensely pleased with, but the sleeves….oh, the sleeves. The sleeves that come with the pattern are the set-in kind. Not the men’s-95%-range-of-motion kind, but the you-will-have-t-rex-arms kind you see so often with women’s shirts. I had redrafted the sleeve cap last year-ish, and tried a few different iterations, but then got so frustrated that I put it back on the dressform and put the dressform in the corner. Well. Next time, I’ll post pictures of the sleeve issues – maybe someone can help me??

The second photograph show is coming up. EDIT: I hung photos this past Friday – they’ll be hanging at The Green Bean in Northampton, MA for the month of January 2019. Because the walls are big, I had panicked a bit about having enough to hang, so I’ve been spending quite a lot of time taking more photos and trying to get back in the groove. It turns out that despite my intense love of a certain local florist (Forget Me Not, Main Street, Northampton, MA – seriously gorgeous stuff), I keep finding gems at Trader Joe’s of all places!

 

These lovelies stuck around for quite some time. I managed getting only one shot I really liked out of so many, but I am pleased with it.

So, the photos.

Guys, photos are work. I knew it would be work (because I’m a compulsive planner and plan for all the scenarios I can think of), but I think most non-photographers do not realize this. The set up, the lighting, the clicking, the adjustments (everywhere)…that’s hours and hours. The editing for what my goal is takes a few hours a day for what can be a couple of weeks. I’m still working on one from this set up:

img_4134Hilariously, this is not the actual photo I’m still working on – I took this with my phone, but it’s close to what I got with the real camera with the real lens.

I was on the fence about this one being in the upcoming show, and decided ultimately that it didn’t quite fit. I have another project in mind for this sort of thing. Stay tuned!

But this one will be finished eventually (probably sometime in January) and for sale somewhere. I’m working on putting photos up in my shop because I feel like that’s a Good Idea. My shop, though, isn’t really set up for dividing up things into categories, so I either learn how to fiddle with the code, or I move my shop to a different platform.

 

With the measurements I took of the walls in the restaurant, I spent a few days (nights) last week making a map of the walls so I’d know where everything would hang, I pre-measured ribbon and affixed it to the back of each photo, I made new description/price tags…there was not a whole lot of sleep between this and my day job.

 

So, there’s some of them. I’m intensely happy with the prints. They are matte and the black is beautiful and perfect, and I wish so much that I could have put museum glass in front of them so the glare wouldn’t be so distracting, but museum glass is expensive, yo!

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My day job has added another hat: I’m the robot vacuum cleaner expert, as far as being an expert in this office goes. The good news is that I know where all the screws are. I can change a belt, the batteries, clean the sensors, and shortly, I will be figuring out how to keep this little guy from positively screaming when vacuuming.

The Office Dog spends her days napping adorably, if looking slightly dorky:

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Right after I’m done with a couple of urgenturgent!WeavingProjects! (paying work!), two pairs of trousers for a friend are next. I must think about what sort of print I’ll use for the pockets.

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In order to get to the Weaving Projects mentioned above, I need to finish a sample I started months ago. This started collecting dust just as the Making came to a screaming halt. I probably should have just put it aside because I need the reed for the urgent projects, but decided to forge ahead. The pattern is a disaster (I had decided on pinstripes) and asymmetrical in so many awful ways due to how I decided to measure the warp (long story). However, cloth is still cloth, and I’m pretty sure I’ll still be able to do something with it even if it’s only to test out what this yarn is like as a dishtowel (or a microwaveable rice-filled hot pack, something I’ve been thinking about for a while). The yarn is 100% wet spun line linen in unbleached and half-bleached. I’m in love with the colors.

 

If the cloth is as lovely as I think it will be, I may do a run of 8 or 10 towels. Maybe hand towels. And possibly a few sachets or pillows. I don’t know quite yet. This yarn is about twice the price of the cotton, so the resulting cloth would cost more. But liiiinnnnnennn!

Hopefully, I’ll be able to make some intense progress this week. I want to get the first paying weaving project measured and on the loom by this coming Saturday night.

(Except, did I mention? I also have to replace the rotors and pads on the front brakes of my car…hopefully not the calipers…sigh.)

I want some cookies.

 

 

Fixing things, making things, hanging things

Time marches on too quickly! Oh boy, have I been busy.

After house and pet sitting for a couple of weeks, I slept for a couple of weeks. I finished the grey towels – more to come on those. Then I discovered that I had a sticky brake caliper on one side of my car. Drat! Having come from a family that just fixes things and has most of the tools to do it, my brother came over and we replaced rotors and pads on both sides, and the caliper on one side. (It goes so much faster with two people.) After a long afternoon, I have fully functioning brakes now! Woo!


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My friend Lee has asked me to weave a blanket for her out of bamboo yarn. She bought some yarn for a sample, and I doodled. It’s not great – there are so many mistakes – but the point of a sample is to find out how to work with the yarn, how it compares with other yarns, and what the end texture/weight/hand of the piece will be after wet finishing. I was not at all sure I liked it the whole time it was on the loom. It seemed to behave like a yarn somewhere between mercerized cotton and tencel, and I couldn’t help but wonder if it would just stay stiff and, well, like a kitchen towel. I don’t think I’d like a blanket that draped on me like a kitchen towel. But after washing, whoa nelly! It became a buttery soft cloth with the most amazing drape. Of course, it’s a kind of rayon, so I would expect fabulous drape, but I didn’t really expect the texture! It’s awfully close to resembling the hand of silk.

The yarn itself is a bit too light for a blanket, so we put that sample aside, and I’ve purchased a couple of cones of heavier yarn for another sample. I have enough of this new yarn to weave a sample that may also be useful, like a scarf. Stay tuned!


So there’s this international event that happens annually called Spinzilla. Basically, it’s a contest to see who can spin the most yarn (regardless of quality) in a week. There are teams and just random single people competing, and they just sit at the spinning wheel or carry around a drop spindle and spin spin spin. A friend of mine who has been participating since the very first Spinzilla encouraged me to join a team she was on this year, so I did. I even took a couple of days off work in order to have more time to spin, because that is the kind of person I am (coughcompetitivecough). I bought fiber for this purpose (which was REALLY silly – I had fiber). And I worried immensely about not having enough of my lovely fleece combed to spin (also silly – did I mention I had fiber?). So I combed wool.

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I still can’t believe how soft and luscious this wool is!

I combed a lot. 3-4 hours in one sitting for a couple of days. My shoulders really ached after the second day. And while I was combing, I suddenly remembered that I might have some roving around that would be easy to spin and I wouldn’t have to comb so much wool…

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Yeah. I found some fiber I had forgotten about. So much fiber. So. Much.

Okay, so fiber like this squishes, and I had quite a bit squished in a bin or two. So I stopped combing and started spinning. And ended up with this:

Left: wool/silk blend (colors), Southdown breed blend (white).

Middle: wool/silk blend, two batches, spun and plied. (These need to be plied a bit tighter/with more twise, so I’ll be running them back through the spinning wheel soon.)

Right: All the wool I spun in a week! One of the white skeins is more tightly plied, and it shows – that one is okay. The other will have to be plied with more twist.

In the end, I was VERY pleased with the amount I had spun and what I had learned. I also realized that I probably should be more social than I am because being with a group of people felt…kind of weird. But I did also come away with some very unhappy upper back and shoulder muscles. Sigh. No, Kate, you should not comb wool for hours and hours, and then spin for hours and hours without getting up and moving around after not having done it for a year.

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So happy with this! I learned a lot.

I’m especially happy with the combed wool I spun. The picture above isn’t a good one (sorry), but it records a pretty well plied two ply worsted yarn – this is the stuff I’d been combing in the pictures above. This close up above is before I washed it, so it looks darker and stiffer than it turned out after washing. The goal for learning to spin this kind of yarn is to be able to weave a good, hard-wearing cloth from it. I have plenty of wool to spin, so lots of practice with. This is from a lovely sheep living in Greenfield, MA (I hope he’s still there!) who I’m pretty sure was a Romney, but probably has other breeds in him as well.

And, by the way, I am very happy to announce that the team I participated with – Team Webs – scored second place with a total of 131,008 yards spun. Yay!!


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Harlequin. Shot in September 2018. I love this one, and I want to print it again so much larger.

For the last couple of months, I’ve been sort of getting ready for a photography show. It’s very informal – the photos were to hang at a local bakery in Amherst, MA. I had some photos already printed and framed, and needed to get others printed and framed – I went to a local print shop for the printing, but I framed them myself. On paper, this all seems pretty straightforward, but one can never properly account for how much time it’s going to take: LOTS.

I am kind of in love with some of the recent shots I took over the past couple of months. I love the paper they’re printed on, I love the colors, I love the clarity.

The end of a long push forward came earlier today when I hung eleven of my photos at Henion Bakery in Amherst, MA. I cannot describe how delighted I am to share them with other people, but in the same way I cannot describe the equal amount of terror I feel over sharing them with other people. Perhaps all photographers feel this way? I don’t know – this “hanging art” thing is very new to me, and wonderful, and deeply scary.

Prints of all of them are for sale. Most of the framed pictures in the bakery are also for sale. Stop by if you’re in town, grab a cuppa and one of Henion’s out-of-this-world pastries (seriously, try them – you will not be disappointed!), and check out the art hanging on the walls. They’ll be up until just before Thanksgiving.

 


I have also made a huge push to get an online shop going, which has been much more complicated than it at first seemed. I did get it done, and while there are still many tweaks to be made, I have an online shop at last! I have called it Waldenweave Studio. Currently, there are handwoven kitchen towels for sale, but I do intend to get my photography on there, and probably some of the little books I’ve been binding. There is also always the possibility I’ll put some other doodle or two up there – I may have to change the webpage up a bit to accommodate so many categories. Evolution will likely happen, as it tends to with everything!

So, the grey towels:

All done and I’m very pleased with them. You can find them in my shop – if you’re in a country other than the United States and you’d like to buy one, let me know at kate@waldenweave.com or via the contact form at the shop. I haven’t got a chance to investigate shipping rates to anywhere else, so I haven’t added that to the shop yet.

Please stop by my shop and let me know what you think! I will need to investigate sales and coupons, too. 🙂 I feel like readers here may appreciate a coupon.


In my other spare time, I have been trying to measure out this new warp. It’s 100% linen, and really my first time weaving line linen, so I chose a slightly thicker-than-usual-for-me yarn to start with. I am pretty excited about this, though. Linen is a really wonderful fiber, and you don’t see a lot of quality linen cloth in this country. Most of it seems to be from China, and seems to be woven from the tow (short fibers, nice, but not as strong) rather than the line (long fibers, up to three feet long, very strong). The tow is nice, don’t get me wrong. It becomes soft and lovely, and still has many of the wonderful qualities of linen (breathable, anti-microbial, holds an awful lot of moisture before actually feeling wet to the touch), but it also sheds lint like crazy. And that means it’s much shorter lived than line linen. Line, I’m given to understand, will also get crazy, deliciously buttery soft, but will not shed lint, will last longer, and has a lovely sheen to it. Like antique linen sheets, if you’ve ever seen them (and by ‘antique’, I mean 100 years old – yes, you can actually have sheets that are 100 years old and they’re still good – welcome to linen).

This warp will hopefully become a couple of kitchen towels – I make a lot of those, but honestly, for samples of cloth, they’re pretty handy. You can beat them up and see what happens, you can wrap things in them, you can dry dishes, you can use it as a napkin, you can use it as a place mat, you can dry your hair with them…all kinds of stuff. Of course, if this works as well as I think it might, I have ideas about making some overshot linen things. Rugs maybe? Runners? Just cloth? Hmm. I could absolutely use a linen overshot rug in my life…

What about you?