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.

IMG_3744

 

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!

 

 

Summer

This summer has not been terribly conducive to? helpful for? organized with respect to? making things. Frequently these days, the day starts at 3am, which is never my choice, and that level of Teh Tired sucks out motivation for anything other than staring at the wall wondering why I am staring at the wall. However, I have remembered to leave the knitting on the couch so that when I’m staring at the wall, my hands have something to do and Something gets Made. This is helpful because after a couple of hours, a significant amount of sock materializes that I don’t remember knitting, but hey, handmade socks! And it makes the wall staring seem less worrisome somehow.

I have been collecting pictures of bits of excitement from the last couple of weeks:

IMG_3023

A Polyphemus Moth. Yes, that’s my hand, and yes, he was huge. (I’m pretty sure it was a male, but I could be wrong.)

I was running my usual work errands and on my walk up the street nearly stepped on this guy. It was an unseasonably cold day at 60F (about 30 degrees colder than usual), and he was only too happy to crawl up onto my warm hand and grab on for all he was worth. I carried him across downtown to the library, which has a lovely woodland garden in the back. I put him under a tiny Japanese maple, and he fluttered up onto a branch, probably feeling a lot better since he was no longer in the open.

I finished off the weirdly purple/brown socks. Gosh, those are wonderful to wear. They’re Madelaine Tosh merino and so, so soft. But the yarn was weirdly dyed. These new blue/green socks are made from some of my favorite sock yarn: Berroco superwash. They wear like iron, and I have never had them give the slightest hint of felting if I put them in the washer and dryer. (I’ve stopped doing that as other brands were starting to felt.) I find the yarn is a teeny bit heavier than other brands of sock yarn, so knitting up with size 0 needles really gives you a dense, hard-wearing fabric, but still stretchy. I like my socks to not stretch out too much when I wear them, so I’m constantly adjusting my vanilla pattern. This time, I’ve added a wee gusset to my short row heel to allow for a bit more diagonal stretch from the heel to the top of the foot as I’ve reduced the number of stitches across the foot a bit. The gusset thing is totally made up, so we’ll see how it works out. I had wanted to figure out how to do a heel flap on a toe-up sock, but there was Wall Staring, so that was a non-starter. This was the best I could come up with. The real test is to finish them and wear them.

The colors are delightfully cool in the heat of the summer, and they remind me of all the colors of the Atlantic Ocean here in the north.

Only, have I mentioned? It’s been boiling hot and humid (read: deeply tropical) for a few days, then distinctly autumnal – the kind of weather that makes you crave roasted squash, woolly sweaters, and hot drinks with whiskey in them – then it’s boiling hot and humid again. I’m not really complaining. Usually it’s just boiling hot and humid. So, so humid. Everything gets damp, and five minutes after a morning shower, you feel you need another one. The cool weather is fiiiiine. Plus, I love roasted squash.

 

IMG_3030

I want to sew shoes….? Of course I want to sew shoes. Of course.

So, I want to make my own shoes. I can’t actually afford all the tools necessary to become my own cobbler (yet), but I do have all the necessary tools to sew cloth shoes. Having a body whose parts do not conform to a single standard size, I have to hunt for things to clothe said parts. Which means I am not one of those fortunate souls who can walk into a mall and buy cute summer shoes that fit. Also, the crap they sell in malls wears out in a season, and I’m so done with that (*stifling a rant on consumerism, marketing, and the environment*). The solution is obviously to make my own out of materials that are renewable, affordable, and will not persist in the environment for hundreds of years. And if I make it, I can likely repair it when needed. So. The above is a first stab at a pattern. It’s nearly there. The pins are holding tucks where I will likely put seams. The white on the inside is a temporary cardboard insole, which will be replaced with a linen/wool insole in the finished product.

IMG_3031

Thrums from the napkin project.

I have kept a lot of the thrums from the napkin project mostly because I am in love with the colors. There must be SOMETHING I can do with them.

IMG_3012

The napkins. Washed three times, dried three times, ironed to within an inch of their little lives.

There they are! They’re beautiful for the most part. I mean, the colors are gorgeous, and I love them. The selvedges are kind of crap and I’m pretty sure some of the colors shrunk at a different rate than others, which gave me weird ripples. Ironed, they’re fine. And they will absolutely work as napkins. So as soon as I can find a box to send them in, I will ship them north to their intended new home. (Box hunting may be on my after-work agenda today.)

IMG_3029

Another pair of trouser for my bud Jenny! (Hi, Jenny!)

I have a few more pairs of trousers to make for my friend. This pair is getting done slowly but surely! This is a close up of the waistband being attached. I’ll sew it together tonight, then serge, then topstitch, then fold, iron, etc etc.

 

IMG_3032

Yeah, so there’s this new-to-me loom. It’s hyooge. It’s Very Swedish. It has 12 shafts. Once I get some heddles, theoretically I will be able to weave all the things! Wider! And more accurately! With super complicated patterns!

Though the place I live in has lots of space for things like looms, there is only space for one assembled loom at a time. The Auld Loom has been disassembled and put upstairs to keep the fabric and wool bins company for now. I have spent the last three days putting this new (used) one together, which is not to say it’s super complicated, but rather it was (is being) assembled in short bursts. (Assemble, sit and stare at the wall for an hour or two, assemble, sit and stare. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.) The next step is to buy a lot of heddles for it, then put on a warp. All the instructions I found on countermarche looms tell me that once I put a warp on and tie up the treadles, all will become clear as to how this loom works. (Personally, I’m hoping for a tesseract-like action whereby I’ll be able to weave in several dimensions at once. I mean, did you see the pulleys and levers?)

 

 

IMG_3025

You just don’t see many of these guys anymore!

Depending on what street I park on, I sometimes get to walk past a house that’s got a large patch of purple cone flowers right in front. The woman who lives in that house is kind of my hero. She’s Polish, barely speaks English (but enough to be understood), stacks a giant pile of wood in a shed in the backyard all by herself in the fall, tends a vegetable garden that takes up the rest of the tiny yard, walks all over town to run errands and do shopping, and she’s very much past retirement age. I always tell her how beautiful her garden looks whenever I see her, and she seems glad to hear it. And hey, honeybees!