Back to Craft, Urgently

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Freak-Out Explanation and Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

It’s unfair

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

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

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Sock #1 finished. Stripey goodness.

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Hard times

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

…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.

 

 

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!

 

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:

Grace

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?