Summer has come

It is well and truly summer now. For those who don’t know, summer in western Massachusetts can be brutal. Temperatures can linger in the 90s with 80%+ humidity and a dewpoint of 75F-80F. It means you sweat constantly. Yesterday here, it was about 98F or so. The house where I live is under a lot of trees, so it’s a tiny bit cooler, but the trees also block out any breezes, and they keep in the humidity.

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99F at 4pm is, needless to say, kind of awful. It got down to 74F sometime in the wee hours of the morning (85% humidity, 78F dewpoint)m but the house stayed at 80F. I do not complain about this lightly – I have one fan. The house I live in has casement windows, which cannot accommodate a window air conditioner without a lot of nonsense and money I don’t currently have. This heat wave is supposed to last until Thursday – Friday will be ‘normal’ again. It’s going to be an uncomfortable week.

Practicing the cello in this weather is challenging.

In other news, I scratched the bookbinding itch. I don’t get a summer break working a 9-5:30 job M-F, but apparently I needed to do something other than weaving for a bit. So, following that persistent voice in my head, I had collected a stack of books from the library on bookbinding, both on artsy bookbinding and on very technical bookbinding and Read Them. It turns out, to bind a basic book, you don’t need much, and there’s a lot of crossover with sewing, so I have tools. I’ll likely get a couple other things specifically for working with paper and making books (folder, scorer, a bookbinder’s awl, beefier linen thread, etc.), but not just yet. I’d really like to be able to make a case bound book (the kind of book you think of when you think ‘hard bound book’), but I’ll need a couple more larger, more expensive tools for that. I’ll just have to save my pennies. For now, it’s Coptic stitched books!

 

I already had a plan for a 4″x5″ book, and had purchased three large sheets of really beautiful off-white cotton paper from our local art shop. It’s a dreamy kind of drawing paper that feels so…textural, but without actually having a lot of texture. I love this paper. (I feel the beginnings of an itch to get out some charcoal and draw again…) I also bought a single sheet of sea green lokta paper, with the intention of using that on the signature spine as well as inside the cover boards.

Above, you can see the 4″x10″ sheets cut, and some folded already. Once those were all folded, I nested them together with three pieces of paper to a nest (called a ‘signature’). The result was five signatures. But then, I had smaller pieces of paper left over, and I thought, “Oh, I could make a wee book!”, and of course crafturgency took over. Those sheets were cut and folded. Another trip to the art shop, and I discovered the scrap paper bin (five pieces for $1!). That’s where I found this cherry blossom paper, which I adore. I got another sheet of lokta paper in the dusty pink to match, brought it all home, and after a couple of hours fiddling with glue, weaving yarn, a couple of needles, and beeswax, I had a wee book! I’m not sure what I’ll do with it, but I sure to think it’s adorable. I learned stuff while making it, and felt more prepared to tackle the larger book.

But wait. There’s more.

Because, while I was hunting around through my weaving cut offs and samples looking for a suitable book cover cloth, I came upon that beautiful yellow overshot stuff I made a couple of months ago. I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with it. It should become something wonderful to be used, or else it’ll just stay a piece of cloth in a box somewhere, you know? And then I was making that little book, and I thought that lovely square overshot pattern would be pretty perfect.

 

From the same bunch of scraps of paper that I got at the art shop, I had enough gorgeous drawing paper (it’s really nice, watermark and all) to make four small signatures. And I found a piece of mat board in my photography stuff that worked great for the covers.

The actual cloth cover? That was hard. I ended up staring at the piece of cloth for about 45 minutes before I decided I’d cut it. But I didn’t cut it. I waited. I procrastinated. I did the dishes and tidied up, coming back over to the table to look at the cloth. (What is my problem? Honestly? It’s CLOTH, and unless it’s going to cover a table or be a blanket or hang on a wall, it is going to have to be cut eventually. And it’s just CLOTH! I can weave more – it’s not like I can’t just weave more just like it.)  I went to bed.

The next morning, I got up, made tea and steeled myself to cut the cloth. And then I did. And it was fine. The sun didn’t disappear. The seas didn’t boil. There were no earthquakes. Five minutes at the sewing machine, and then a little trimming, and I had a book cover. This one is removable, so when the book is all used up, the cover slips off and can go on another book. (I am debating about sewing on tiny ribbons so it can be tied shut.)

Once over the fear of cutting cloth, I got to work on the larger book’s covers. Those have to be made in order for the assembling and sewing to happen.

 

The covers are black mat board (I think – I bought it years ago). The cloth is the leftover from a napkin project for my friend K in New Hampshire. I am very happy with how the covers have turned out! They spent most of the day yesterday drying – it was so humid, the glue took ages to dry. The signatures have sewing stations punched in (the holes you sew through), and I cut a strip of lokta paper to use on the spine. It’ll be sewn with the blue weaving yarn you can see in the background.

I’m REALLY happy with how this is turning out. Now I’m thinking about different patterns of cloth to weave specifically for book covers, and about different methods of binding. Case binding may have to happen sooner than I expect, but we’ll see. Perhaps I need to practice Coptic binding for a while to get it down pat. Not to mention, there are many variations to it and embellishments yet to learn.

In other, other news, I’ve also picked my camera up again.

 

 

At least one of these (possibly both) will be for sale in some form or another. The originals are large, and can be blown up to about 16″x24″. It’s also entirely possible one (or both) will be hanging in a restaurant downtown Northampton, MA this summer for a short period of time.

I do need to get back to weaving. For the last few weeks, I’ve been trying to finish measuring out the fine blue cotton for that napkin project, but my heart just isn’t in it. I really do want to weave napkins for Dan! (Dan, I do! I do! Honest!) But omg it’s so fine, and there are a bunch of other projects I want to get going with, so I might put the blue to one side for now. There is the wedding present for John the Finder of Dinosaurs and his new wife. There are the towels for (person undisclosed because they read this probably) as a surprise. There’s the blanket that Lee is commissioning from me. There are the towels my own brother asked me for – he has spent months redoing his kitchen himself, and it’s got a new color scheme. He loves the towels I wove for him a couple of years ago, and instead of buying new ones, came right out and asked me for new ones that will match his kitchen. OF COURSE I will weave him stuff! And then there’s the stuff I have jumbling around in my head that needs to come out so I can gain some small bit of quiet again.

This week, my goal is to get some test prints made of the photographs to see how they come out on a couple types of paper. I also have to figure out framing (museum glass is magical stuff). Honestly, I am nervous about hanging my photos – please, if you see them, be kind. But also, please, please be honest. (I feel like such a fraud.)

And now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

 

EDIT: Those photos will not hang in that restaurant this summer, but rather for the month of January 2019. EEP!

 

 

Finally, an update

I really did try to update this blog before now. I really did.

Things and Stuff have been happening. I am (finally) nearly almost practically done setting up an online shop. I nearly walked away from my day job, but then didn’t (it’s all good). I went to VT to see a friend graduate from college, and to visit another friend there. I have been practicing cello like a fiend – because every month I have lessons may be the last. (There are some calluses on my fingers, yo.) And I’m trying so hard to get things made that need to get made and get things done that need to get done.

The extremely good news is that the tendonitis has been continuing to recede, and some days I don’t even notice it!

On to the visual proof of what I’ve been doing.

I had this idea for a series of mostly handwoven, hand-dyed sort-of panels that would hopefully be shown at a local library’s art gallery next year – or maybe just hang on the wall where I live. It’s still swimming around in my head and would be oh so

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The tannins in black tea turns the cloth black where the cloth has been exposed to iron oxide. Behold! Chemistry!

cool – I haven’t made any art in years and years. Part of it involved an indigo dye vat and another part involved rust stains. The indigo is straightforward, and the resulting fiber requires no special treatment afterwards. However, staining with rust means that there’s rust still on the fibers (I think), and my original plan involved staining the yarn and then weaving it – only the reed in the loom is stainless steel, and I’m betting it’s not that stainless when literally up against actual rust. So, I decided the cloth would have to be dyed. And then I read about overdyeing rusty cloth with tea, and instantly learned about iron mordants! I’m still thinking hard about this potential art. We’ll see if I get to it this year.

 

I finished the two cotton scarves. They were difficult in ways I didn’t anticipate – the weave was planned to be loose, which means paying very close attention to beat. The selvedges are a mess – that is, they’re not perfect or close to even, and it drives me a little batty. One could attach the label “rustic” to them, but I’m not sure how I feel about that. I’m trying to decide if that should go to my shop or not. I do have a large-ish pile of things to sell.

 

I’ve been going to a knitting group at one of the local yarn shops again – it’s been about six months since the last time, but being in a space dominated by lovely yarn, knitting needles, and loads of people knitting was not conducive to the tendonitis healing, so I stayed away. When I finally went back the other night, a friend of mine showed me some really luscious fleece she’s acquired, and some examples spun up – she’s an excellent spinner! Apparently, she’s prepared at all times for any spinning emergency as shown in the above pictures of the contents of her car. There were six drop spindles in that plastic tote. The bags are full of fleece. (Even I’m not that prepared!)

 

The things I find in Amherst.

Sorry about not providing an update of Emily Dickenson’s grave – I’ve been back, but failed to take pictures. I will next time!

 

And here’s the next project! It’s tiny yarn (24/2 for those who want to know), and I’m hoping it will make nice cloth suitable for napkins. I didn’t sample (I know, I know, I’ll kick myself later), but I figure the resulting cloth will still be useful? I hope? The thing that really worries me is the selvedges. I recently found plainweave.net, and there were some helpful suggestions both for producing good selvedges and also for letting go of that selvedge perfection goal. Stay tuned.

 

OMGOMGOMGOMG!! I can spin wool again!! I can’t believe it. I have been positively aching to spin wool, and there’s still so much of it, and and and and! I had borrowed a couple of movies from the library (btw, The Shape of Water is a must see – really) and dusted off my wheel. It felt soooo good. I finished up the bobbin that was on there, and started another (pictured). Hopefully, a little every week will be spun and then I can weave the yarn. This project, of course, was supposed to be finished last October.

 

And finally, I CAN KNIT AGAIN!! Okay, in small doses. My thumb starts to get kind of tingly after about four rows, which is a sign of Overdoing It. So, as long as I’m careful to not knit more than about four rows at a time with a couple of hours in between (for now), then there will be slow progress.

I’m also reading up on some really exciting overshot patterns. The loom has four shafts on it now, but can accommodate up to ten shafts (I think – possibly twelve?), and I think the next step might be eight. My buddy Lee has asked me to weave a blanket for her, and so of course I’m thinking about a complicated, beautiful pattern with, of course, more shafts. Because New! Shiny! Complicated!

And I’ve been reading about bookbinding, because I’ve only bound one book and I’m weirdly itchy to make some more. This time, I have idea about weaving cloth for the cover (yes, I have ideas about making paper out of linen or cotton scraps and possibly also thrums and binding that into a book – that’s a long term project). I’ve got some really lovely cotton paper and some ethereal blue Japanese paper (don’t know what the fiber content of that is), and string…where would I find some string…..? The only thing I need is some Davey board for covers, and a Coptic bound book is mine.

Also, I got out my camera again. Oh boy. I forgot how lost I can get in photography. Whole chunks of time just whiz by without me taking any notice – what’s that sound? It’s my stomach! Why? I just ate lunch! Oh. No. That was nine hours ago. Oh. The sun has set. Oh. It’s actually time for bed. Damn.

One of my favourite pictures I have ever produced featured an orchid:

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Grace

I love that picture more than I can say. And so I thought because I made such a pretty thing before with the help of an orchid, I would try again with other orchids (of course, none of my current orchids are blooming, so I needed new ones). I have to admit, they do add some lovely color to that room – I really miss gardening!

Yesterday, I found some peonies. The kitchen was transformed into a photography studio, and away flew several hours. I’m still in the process of editing, but when I am done, I think they will become prints and cards.

Did I mention I also bought a shoe pattern last month? Well, I did. With the intention of weaving the cloth that would become shoes. And if I could grow the fiber myself that I could use to weave the cloth, I would. Oh – of course, I will use some of that wool I’ve been spinning. And it may go into an indigo vat.

Hopefully, next time I’ll have news about stuff for sale! What have you been up to?

New and Shiny: Overshot

Okay, so only a day or so after cut the Springtime Stripey cloth off the loom, I started measuring another warp. This time, I chose a weave structure I’ve been wanting to try for probably a year (overshot), and a yarn I’ve had for just that purpose.

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It’s so hard to get the lighting right – in person, it’s a golden sunshine color, and I do love it so!

I know, I know, I really need to hem the Rainbow towels and the Springtime towels. Right now, I’m busy convincing myself that I don’t have the right color thread, but I know that’s nonsense. Really, what’s going on is another case of crafturgency.

Because just LOOK:

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It’s summer sunshine and dandelions in cloth form!

I ended up running out of the yellow. I ran out of yellow. I can’t adequately express how upset I am at having run out of yellow. But I was trying to use it up because there was only a tiny bit left, and it’s the brand of yarn I’m no longer so keen on, and this is an experiment, and I still need to see what the shrinkage rates between the two brands of yarn in the same project are. And and and… I had chosen the orange warp because I wanted to use the yellow with it as the pattern weft, and while I thought they would be beautiful together, I had not thought the result would be quite this beautiful. This could be the most beautiful thing I’ve woven yet.

I did make a couple of mistakes in the pattern, but as I said, this is an experiment. The warp is super short (3 yards) and was meant to serve as an answer to some questions: do I like weaving this kind of pattern? Is it really as complicated as it looks? How will washing the cloth change it? Is this a feasible structure to weave to sell? Is this something I could use for other things? Is this fun?

It does, alas, take longer than weaving a twill, but the resulting cloth so far is completely worth it. It’s beautiful to the eye, and to the touch. I’m a sucker for color, but also for texture: my maple shuttle is so, so smooth it’s almost buttery, and I love to work with it; the cloth is nubbly in a pleasingly patterned way that reminds me of soft upholstery from my childhood. If this were woven with two different fibers, then the texture would be different still, and pleasing in different ways. (And that is also on the list for future iterations of overshot.)

Speaking of texture, practicing the cello has changed my sense of texture, which is oddly distressing and fills me with a certain sense of pride, too. I can no longer feel fine textural details with the fingertips on my left hand – things are all sort of muffled and in the background. I can’t pick up single threads with them anymore just by feel. On the other hand, the calluses I have acquired are signs of the now hundreds of hours I’ve spent working at learning to fulfill a childhood dream – I have many, many thousands of hours to go before I even get the possibility of making beautiful music, and I wonder what else will change. Part of excitement of learning is noticing the changes.

The color of this yellow/orange cloth fills me with joy every time I look at it. I had originally thought I’d cut it up and make little pincushions, or put squares on blank cards, but I might just keep it so I can look at it and be filled with joy. Perhaps a pillow. Of course, we’ll have to see what happens after wet finishing. Maybe I’ll just go buy another cone of yellow?

After the yellow weft yarn ran out, I reached for a couple of other experimental alternatives:

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I’m still not sure about the blue. Orange, yes, pink, maybe. Blue…eeeeehhh?

I do still have some orange weft yarn left, but only about as much as I had in the yellow. While it wowed me initially, it didn’t wow me enough to keep going, and I was keen to do some plain weave and then start another color. I reached for the blue because I bought it specifically to go with the orange warp yarn. I wanted colors that would make my eyes buzz – I’m not sure if it’s this particular lighting or if I misjudged this combination, but it’s not doing as much for me as the yellow yarn did, and my eyes are definitely not buzzing. But, in the spirit of learning the pattern, and how to weave this structure, I am persevering:

 

Okay, colors aside, ISN’T THAT THE COOLEST THING EVER? (I just know that one day I’ll look back on this and think, “What kind of idiot were you? That’s not cool at all – you were weaving the equivalent of first grade penmanship.” And the urge to delete this post will overcome me. But for now, this is absolutely magic.)

Now that I’ve woven it, I understand how the weave works, and that has opened up a whole new array of patterns. This one is woven with four shafts, and I have the option of adding eight more shafts on my loom (as soon as I figure out the slightly warped pieces). I have seen this weave structure in patterns for eight shafts, and they were even more magical. So, the question is, are there patterns for twelve shafts and OMG what on earth do they look like?? Will there be unicorns and rainbows?! Will all my dreams come true??!

Before I get into that, because I can see becoming suddenly consumed with a really extreme sense of crafturgency and losing sleep, a sense of time, and possibly missing getting to my day job if I go down that road right now, I need to experiment with more color and fiber. Traditionally, this structure was used in coverlets in early American weaving (I need to do more research on this so I don’t inadvertently lie to you, dear readers, so take the history explanation with an exceptionally large grain of salt). The warp/ground was cotton, usually natural, and the pattern weft was wool, which, when washed, fulled slightly so the pattern looked less pixely and more solid than the photos of the cotton versions above. I do have some nice fine wool, and perhaps I’ll throw some of that in here just to see what happens, but first, I’m determined to do a couple more rows of the pattern in the blue so I end up with something roughly towel-like. Maybe it’ll be useful as a towel? Anyone have any ideas if it’s not?

And now back to throwing the shuttle!

 

Moar Stripey Goodness

I swear, I have been making things. Okay, it’s been slow (tendonitis still recovering), and I’m busy now with The Great Cello Experiment. And this time of year drains away all my spoons so by the middle of March I’m wishing I could just stay in bed all day…

I digress.

Right after I finished that baby blanket, I moved on to another round of dishtowels. The same ones, it turns out, I did exactly one year ago. Except, in light of my Yarn Shrinkage Research, I decided I wanted them to be a bit wider once the cotton was done shrinking so they were a bit more useful. (I will write about the shrinkage thing in another post, but essentially, it takes 8-10 washings/dryings to get to the maximum shrinkage.) So, I added two inches, which meant adding 60 more yarns across. The resulting warp consists of 660 yarns across 22″.

I can hear all you non-weavers out there falling out of your chair and thudding to the ground. Yes, that’s 30 ends to the inch. If you’re wearing jeans right now, I can promise you that that cloth is 55-64 ends per inch. Which can absolutely be woven by hand using the tools I use right now, it just takes a little longer than weaving dishtowels because the yarns are thinner and there are more of them. Weaving is always a test in patience. Nothing about it is quick.

So, of course my plan was, two weekends ago, to get the warp measured, pre-sleyed, and beamed by the end of the weekend so I’d have mornings and evening to throw the shuttle. Did this work? It did not. Sigh. I decided during the course of winding the warp onto the back beam that the paper I was feeding in between the layers, though wrinkling at an increasingly alarming rate as it rolled on, would be fiiiine. That Monday morning at 3am, I awoke with the realization that this would change the yarn tension going on and then coming off the beam, and that I should unroll it and do it again. Ugh. But you know, you only have to do it right once.

So, I unwound 4 or so yards and spent the week’s mornings and evenings rewinding. In between, I read This is Your Brain on Music by Daniel Levitin, and I practiced scales and études.

The beginning:

The middle:

I left out pictures of the ReWinding, because that was slightly traumatic. There were some tangles due to uneven tension, both in myself and in the warp.

Someone asked me the other day why I put paper in between the layers on the beam. This is to prevent the top layers from cutting into the layers of yarn below them during and after the winding. Without the paper, the even tension when winding on would become very uneven very quickly. Some weavers use sticks to separate the warp layers, some use lengths of bamboo window shades. I have tried the sticks, but I prefer paper because it is easier to deal with and quieter coming off the beam.

And now, a random interlude.

At my day job, I’ve been trying to go for a walk during my lunch break because try as I might, I cannot burn calories throwing a 3 oz shuttle or leaning on a 3 oz bow. I visited a well-known spot in town:

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Emily’s headstone is well-revered.

It’s always entertaining to see what her fans deem worthy gifts. I’ll go burn some more calories today and check again. Stay tuned for an update in a later post.

And now, back to the post.

Right. So, with the warp now successfully on, I managed to thread all 660 heddles, sley the reed, lash the warp on, and start throwing the shuttle. Whew!

The first leg of The End:

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Purpley goodness!

Once again, you can see the color change due to weft color choice. Above is how I left things this morning – I finished up the second purple weft towel, and began the first green weft towel. The plan is to weave eight towels (nine, if I have enough warp, which I should have), two with each of the four colors: purple, green, yellow, turquoise, and then an additional yellow one. Probably.

People always ask me how long it takes to weave. Like, all the time. The answer is: it depends. On the project, on the yarn, on the pattern. Probably it takes longer than you think? For this particular project, to measure the warp, get it wound onto the back beam, get all the heddles threaded, get the reed sleyed, lash on the warp at the front, and then start throwing the shuttle – provided there are no mistakes – for me with this loom, it takes about 12-15 hours. I’ve timed myself throwing the shuttle for one towel, and including advancing the warp, backing up to fix mistakes, winding new quills, etc, it takes me 1.5-2 hours per towel. So, for this warp, I anticipate it taking an additional 14 hours this week until I can cut the cloth off the loom. (EDIT: with practice, once I get up to speed, it looks like I can weave a towel in 1.25 hours.)

(If you are a weaver, I would really like to know how long it would take you to complete a similar project!)

What I marvel at so often is that the clothes we wear today evolved from women’s work creating cloth, both by means of weaving and by means of knitting. The technology hasn’t really changed – the fundamental structure of cloth demands the same process to build it – it’s just faster now.

Once this project is done, I have some really lovely fine wool yarn I want to dye and weave. Still. Unless I decide to measure out a warp for upholstery.

 

 

 

 

Tarot of the North Atlantic

I had to share this with you all!

Lee Thomson – artist and dear, dear friend – has started a very small kickstarter to sell a really amazing tarot deck that she’s created. Each card was handmade and then photographed, and will be printed into a beautiful deck of cards that you can buy. I have seen the originals and the first set of proofs, and I can tell you that the cards are really gorgeous.

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The Magician – one of my favourites!

Click here to go to the Kickstarter page!

 

 

And now back to your regularly scheduled programming…

 

The Return

I’m finally, FINALLY back to weaving. I can hold a pencil and write with it. I have not yet tried knitting. Or spinning.

But so much has happened in the interim. Where to start.

Due to that hand/wrist tendonitis thing, I was forcibly introduced to the World of Left-handedness. Guys, the world is set up exclusively for right-handed people. It’s awful. Things with handles all have the marks and words on the side you see when you hold a thing in your right hand. If you can’t hold it in that hand, you either have to develop a left elbow that bends the other way, or spend time putting a thing down, turning it, turning it back, and picking it back up again. Lefties, I will never make fun of you again. I get it now!

I practiced cello with the bow in teeny, tiny chunks of time. I watched many DVDs in lieu of weaving/knitting/spinning/embroidering/insertActivityHere. I looked at my loom with the brilliant rainbow yarn not yet actually threaded through the heddles.

Then I drove away out of town for 10 days where I did not practice or make anything. And you know what happened? It got better. Not all the way, but definitely over the hump.

When I got back, I very carefully threaded a few heddles one day. Then, a couple of days later, threaded a few more. Wash, rinse, repeat, and voilà! Like the tortoise I’ve been, slow and steady got the job done. Pretty soon, I’d tied the warp on the front cloth beam, and was ready to throw the shuttle. Then I wove, and that took what felt like no time at all.

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Alas, I forgot to take in progress shots. This is right at The End.

I cut the new cloth off, and spread it out along the floor. I like doing that because 1. I live in a place currently where the floors will allow it (read: I can), and 2. because it gives me a sense of intense accomplishment: I made clooooth!!

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The difference in color from one towel to the next is entirely dependent on the weft’s color. I find this fascinating to no end.

 

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Look! A pile of cloth that I made! (Also, I believe I knit those socks when I was living in Germany 2+ decades ago.)

 

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Soooo pretty. I was sure these would not be beautiful when I was weaving them, but they really are.

I even found some color combinations that are obvious now that I see them in that last picture, but that I hadn’t really considered before. I love these. However, this Weaving Thing is also a business, so most of these will be up for sale as soon as I’m finished hemming.

And then, I had to put another project on the loom as soon as possible. I’d been invited to a baby shower for a woman who I still think of as a tiny, adorable child of four years sitting in my lap or playing in the leaves with me. She’s 28 now, nearly 29, and will be having a baby boy sometime around the first week in April. Of course I needed to weave her a baby blanket. (Probably I’ll make a bunch of other stuff too, but this I could do right away.)

Weaving draft was acquired! Yarn was purchased! Measuring was initiated! Progress was made! I had to get it all done in about 10 days. Totally doable. It’ll be fiiiiiiiine, I said. Just get the warp on in the weekend before the shower, then I’d have all week to throw the shuttle. Wash it the morning of the shower, hem, and done. Just in time.

So, you know when knitters say you should knit a swatch? And you don’t? And you spend a hundred hours knitting a gorgeous fisherman-knit sweater, you put the first sleeve on, and you try it on because OMG NEW AWESOME SWEATER, only to discover that it’s just not going to fit. Nope. Not even slightly. If only you had knit that swatch first so you’d get the right gauge, right?

Weavers have the same advice. It’s advice worth its weight in gold. And sometimes you don’t have to heed it, but you’d better for projects that are going to count. I did not weave a sample. I did not check my numbers. I relied on thinking I knew what I was doing, even when the warp yardage didn’t seem to be quite enough. 468 ends? That seems…not quite enough. Oh well, fatter yarn than what I’m used to, it’ll be fiiiiiine. This mistake was not wholly apparent until I had started throwing the shuttle that Sunday night.

This was measuring, beaming the warp, and threading the heddles. The first time.

 

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You’re supposed to be able to see through the yarns, but not this much.

I went to bed and thought about it for aaaages. The plan I came up with seemed complicated, but the simplest way: I was going to have to unweave what I had woven, untie everything from the front apron rod, remove the warp from the reed, remove the beater, pull the entire warp forward until it was no longer wound on the back beam, shove all the heddles over to make room, measure 117 additional ends, add that to the back apron rod, wind the warp back on, thread the additional heddles, put the beater back on, re-sley the whole reed at the right ends per inch, tie it all back on and then I could throw the shuttle. Which is exactly what I did. And it took me all week. That Friday night (you know, the night before the shower), I started throwing the shuttle. I got up at 4am the next morning, thinking (ha!) that I might have a chance of getting the cloth woven enough to cut if off so I’d at least have something to take to the shower – “see? I really am weaving you a Thing! It’s pretty! I’m almost done!”

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Now you can actually see the pattern, which you couldn’t really before.

Part of what I love about weaving and what I find perhaps the most astonishing is that each bit of yarn passes through my fingers. Every inch. Twice. Both warp and weft. I have to physically touch all of it while I’m weaving, and after it comes off the loom, I look it over for mistakes, fix them (there were two in this blanket that ran the length of it that I had to fix with a very tiny crochet hook – you can see one in the picture on the left above), wash and dry the cloth, trim errant weft ends sticking out, iron it, cut the cloth, fold and sew hems. And then it’s finished and can be packed up and sent to the recipient.

I’m very happy with this pattern – it came out exactly as I wanted it to, in just the right size and weight. It’s been lovingly handmade for being peed, pooped, and puked on, and then washed to within an inch of its life. I hope the baby likes it as I expect it will last for many years. It was finished yesterday morning. Washed and dried five times, hemmed, and is now wrapped up to be mailed tomorrow.

I have a couple of other project on the list to start, but have been dealing with some headache/middle ear/sinus/possible allergy or cold stuff, so sleeping is currently at the top of my list. But now that my hand/wrist is better, it occurs to me that it’s high time to not only get on with weaving (for I need to fund further weaving adventures and my cello lessons), but also with combing and spinning wool.

OH. And my winter scarf is pretty much dead, so I got some lovely very thin gauge wool yarn, which is currently white, so will need to be dyed. Which I anticipate being heaps of fun. Maybe I should weave some wool instead? I don’t know. Is anyone interested in buying handwoven wool scarves? I have enough for several. And oh, Webs was having a sale on their silk/alpaca yarn and I thought shawl and oh swoon….

Right. Must get busy.

Time, connections, love

January. Oh, January.

On January 22, 2018, my dear friend Michael Anderson passed away from colon cancer. He was 48.

We met each other in Tübingen, Germany, living in the same dorm in college. He’d been there for a couple of years before I arrived, and he showed me all the ins and outs and made me feel not quite so lost. As the two Americans on the floor in a sea of mostly Germans, we talked about home quite a bit – about our lives, about our hopes and dreams. I introduced him to the campiness that was Xena, Warrior Princess, which we’d race down to the TV room to watch once a week, snacks having been acquired just for the occasion, laughing uncontrollably through the whole show. In between, we’d find ourselves in the huge kitchen with his huge copy of the American Heritage dictionary, usually starting out in a serious pursuit of knowledge, and ending up laughing so hard tears would gush down our cheeks – there is some funny shit in the dictionary, yo!

After two years (two of the best years of my life), I went back home to the US. He stayed to finish his Magisterarbeit (Master’s degree). Then he got married to another American he got to know there. They both came back to the US for a bit, during which they celebrated their wedding with friends on this side of the Pond, and I went down to Brooklyn to celebrate, too. We went to the Guggenheim, which was delightful. We ate good food, and laughed a lot. It rained so hard one night, the subways were closed. We walked all over the place, enjoying each other’s company.

I went to Wales to do my Master’s degree, and while I was there, they were in York, so I took the train to visit. It was during the Jorvik Viking Festival. We watched the boat race, wandered through the faux Viking medieval village, took in the sights. Michael had stopped smoking, and his wife had gotten him to start exercising, which I knew he hated but knew was good for him. It was so good to see him then. A familiar face in another foreign country.

We lost touch for a long time after that. He was doing his thing, and I was doing mine. There were good times and bad in both our lives. A couple of years ago, I got a call from him: he had been diagnosed with cancer, he had to find a home for his dog. He’d gotten a divorce some time before. I didn’t know much more than that. He was clearly scared. The diagnosis was not good at all. There was a farm in New Hampshire where his dog would be happy, and he might come out to visit me, and he’d let me know when. But I didn’t hear back.

I emailed a few times, but never got a response. I did check up on him, though. He’d been teaching at Purdue, and there was a listing for him. I figured as long as the listing was there, he was still alive.

A year and some later, I got the word from his partner that he was in remission. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief.

Then he contacted me again last year to tell me the cancer had come back, and it was terminal. I visited them in July. We talked sometimes on the phone, but mostly texted. He taught right up until this past December. I texted pictures, I told him little things about my day, I wanted as much as possible to stay in touch and distract him from his suffering. The semester ended, he went into hospice care. I missed seeing him one last time.

I am so glad I went out in July. I am so glad I took the time to send stupid little texts. I miss him so much, and I wish so much that I had tried harder to stay in touch. 48 is too young.

So, as I said in July, value the time you have with your friends and family. Love them, tell them you love them more often than you do. Try to remember than nothing is static and one day someone close to you and to whom you are close will no longer be there. Spend time with them. Listen to them. Share with them. Stuff is just stuff, dictators rise and fall, aging is unavoidable, but none of this really matters. It’s stuff and circumstances, and the in between is what matters. Life is so, so short. SO SHORT. For some people it’s shorter than it really ought to be.

 

 

 

Photos taken by Zsuzsanna Beard, his partner of seven beautiful years.