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?

 

 

 

I am still here. I swear.

There hasn’t been a ton going on, but I needed to take a bit of a break from omgmakingstuff for a few weeks because life was getting, frankly, overwhelming. And while I require food, sleep, and time to make things to stay healthy, one of those drops off the list when other seemingly less important things gang up on me and march right into the foreground and into my face.

Lately, I’ve also been deep in thought about the culture of the West, of the First World, and how art, music, literature, and curiosity fits in. Or doesn’t, actually. That train of thought usually starts off at a leisurely pace, innocuously traveling down the rails of the What If Train, and after a bit ends up speeding dangerously fast towards Why Not Station. Emotions churn, then rage, then I have to seek out a not-making-things distraction to avoid explosion and general ranting to people who barely know me. I know musicians who have to work stupidly low paid ‘regular’ jobs just to make ends meet. I know weavers and potters and fiber artists who work so hard at what they do – if anyone worked that hard at a ‘regular’ job, they’d all be CEOs – and every single one is married so has a back up income. It pains me to the core that it seems that first, artists have such a hard time making a basic living being artists, and second, that the ones that are not working 70 hours a week doing the making-marketing-bookkeeping, the ones I know, all have some sort of back up income. (I am gathering momentum to get to Why Not Station, so here’s where I need to change topics.)

I will likely talk about this again when I can more properly and calmly organize my thoughts. In the meantime, if you know and artist, musician, writer, poet, person-who-makes-things, please considering supporting them in any way you can, even if it’s only once. Also, there’s Patreon – please check it out. (I do not have a Patreon page – I’m not sure it would work. Please let me know if you think it would!)

So in other news, before I took a break from stuff, I finally finished the book I was making. Behold!

The cover is probably mat board, but I’m not sure. The cloth is handwoven by me. The paper is lovely 100% cotton rag, and the yarn in the binding is weaving yarn. I will definitely make more, but I think the next one at least will be case bound (a non-naked spine). This one was a gift for my buddy Lee.

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Exciting clouds. Believe me when I say these were slowly ‘boiling’. No tornado, fortunately!

Maybe you’ve heard – the Northeast of the US has been having Weather. While California pretty much burns to the ground, we here in western Massachusetts have be inundated by rain. And then rain. And then, by some twist of fate, the skies decide to give us….rain. There have been countless videos posted online of flooding everywhere in the Northeast, huge waterfalls, rivers and streams flooding their banks. The humidity is terrific. The mushrooms prolific.

I wish so much that we could give California our rain.

 

I am pretty sure at least four out of five of these fine mycologic specimens are extremely poisonous. Not that I would test the one that I think might be edible. Oh no. Sudden kidney failure isn’t worth it. I get my edible mushrooms from the grocery store (except for morels – I tried that once and broke out in a nasty case of hives). But I do enjoy seeing these beauties come up. They mostly only last for a couple of days, unless they’re trampled or nibbled by the wildlife – I did catch a squirrel nibbling on a couple recently. I have no idea if he was into tripping, or they were safe, edible mushrooms.

There are a couple of other varieties growing around too. When it stops raining, I’ll see if I can get out and snap a couple of shots.

Here’s the obligatory wildlife shot.

Okay, so not all these were in my neck of the woods. The deer are, and the frog (who I actually booped on the nose very gently). The deer are wonderful. It’s a doe and two fawns who are nearly grown out of their spots (doe right, fawn #1 left…fawn #2 had leapt away for a moment). I see them most mornings while I’m practicing. All of a sudden, I will see a huge brown mass just over the top of the music stand, and there is the doe right in front of the window.

The moth was on my office building’s front door one morning. I helped it off and onto a basket of flowers as I was really afraid someone would not be so careful. The butterfly was in one of the little flower gardens in downtown Amherst.

So then I had a tiny adventure. One day, I was practicing cello, and I accidentally dropped the rosin. Now, normally I practice in a room with a carpet on the floor, and dropping the rosin wouldn’t be a problem, but lately I’ve been practicing downstairs because it’s cooler than upstairs. There’s laminate flooring downstairs. The rosin cake went CRACK as it landed top down, basically shattering. Thankfully, most of it stuck to the cloth and itself, but I did have to sweep up a bit and throw it away.

I could have just bought new rosin, but I despise wasting, and Uncle Google said I could melt together again!

 

I made a form out of aluminum foil by molding it over a vitamin tablet bottle top, put all the broken pieces in the mold, put it in the oven on top of more foil on a cookie sheet, and baked it at 175F for about 15 minutes, then 195F for about 7 or 8 more minutes. I sat on a chair parked right in front of the oven the whole time to be absolutely sure it wouldn’t burn as Google said I should. As soon as I saw the mass of pieces completely melted, I shut off the heat, and left it for about 15 more minutes. Then I removed it from the oven, and pressed the cloth onto the back. The cloth didn’t stick as well as when the rosin was new, and I think if I have to do this again, I’ll press the cloth on as soon as the bits are melted, then shut the oven off and wait for a bit before taking it out to cool completely. But this works.

At some point, I finally got around to measuring a new warp! And then, though it was quite a struggle, I managed to get the warp onto the loom.

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I was really not sure about this design…

There is so much time between when I came up with this design, when I measured the yarn, and when I took this picture, I can’t actually remember how many yards this is. Maybe six. Maybe eight. We’ll find out.

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The dark grey is in the warp. The light grey is the weft. Mixing them gives the illusion of something in between, even though there’s also a pattern. Neat, huh??!

I do love this design. I really wasn’t sure. Normally, if there are stripes, I keep the weave structure very simple. Originally, I had intended to just do this project in a herringbone. Nice clean lines, clean stripes. And I may still do a run of this same design in herringbone. But I have a couple of other cut offs of stripey warps where I’ve experimented with busier weave structures – well, busier to the eye – and everyone who’s seen the cut offs with the actual towels instantly coos over the cut offs. So I took a chance, and chose M&W. I do like this weave an awful lot, and I think it looks nice with these colors, even with the stripes.

Of course, I did the fiddly thing and made the design match up with the stripes. It was a lot of counting, and some basic arithmetic, triple and quadruple checked, and then some period of anxiety when I was done with threading heddles (600+) and sleying the reed (which I kept messing up and having to take out and do over – ugh) because I still wasn’t absolutely sure I hadn’t made a mistake in counting the yarns when I was measuring. But it worked (or at least I haven’t noticed a mistake yet – there’s time for that still). Once the cloth is washed, the pattern will be much clearer.

Grey is so in right now. Grey interiors, especially grey kitchens. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some grey! It’s almost my favourite color. I used to wear it almost exclusively and still have a lot of grey in my wardrobe. But I fear that this will be the olive green, mustard, and burnt orange of the two-thousand-teens. Perhaps the 20s. We’ll look back, and shake our heads: so bland. What were we thinking? It’s so dated. I hope not. I love grey.

(For the record, when I finally have a house of my own, the kitchen will be as white as I can manage. Maybe a bit of light green or yellow, but lots and lots of white.)

So while grey is trendy, don’t you think you need some new hand woven grey cloth in your life? Firstly, these towels will last an awfully long time – years, at least. I would expect a decade. They will be absorbent, they wash very well, they are 100% cotton. Yes, they are expensive. However, they are made by hand with quality yarn, and you will likely actually save money over the long run by not having to buy more crappy towels at the big box store every year. I can even send you a wee cloth sample so you can hold it in your hand and feel it (provided not too many people ask for this!)

Also, if you are itching for something else hand woven with these yarns, I can do placemats, runners (omg, can you imagine a grey, black, and white overshot runner? I’ll do one of those soon, just so you can see!), scarves shawls, and just plain cloth. In fact, I’ve been thinking about just weaving cloth to sell as cloth. Let me know. Poke me about it at islenskr at yahoo dot com. And if you don’t hear from me, leave a comment here, because sometimes yahoo eats emails. (I swear, I was building my own mail server to get away from yahoo, and life happened.)

In any case, I am also building an online shop to sell things I make. I want to fund the Making and the Cello, and (best case scenario) I can throw some at the House Down Payment Fund.

Hopefully, next time, I’ll have pictures of Finished Towels, and possibly printed photographs. I got a couple of test prints done and was very happy with them. Now to get them printed and, gulp, mounted. More soon!

 

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) 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!