…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?

Moar Stripey Goodness

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

I digress.

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

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

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

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

The beginning:

The middle:

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

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

And now, a random interlude.

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

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Emily’s headstone is well-revered.

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

And now, back to the post.

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

The first leg of The End:

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Purpley goodness!

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Tarot of the North Atlantic

I had to share this with you all!

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

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The Magician – one of my favourites!

Click here to go to the Kickstarter page!

 

 

And now back to your regularly scheduled programming…

 

The Return

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Right. Must get busy.

Time, connections, love

January. Oh, January.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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