Weavin’, weavin’, weavin’

I’m definitely getting faster at this. Of course, having the “you’re going to get paid for this, make the client super happy” kind of fire under your butt is a pretty good motivator.

Friday morning before going to my day job:

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I got this tied on and started throwing the shuttle Friday morning before work. Sigh – there are so many threading errors.

Friday night, I discovered a threading error. I did try to fix this by making a new string heddle, tying it on, cutting the misthreaded yarn, rethreading it properly, and tying it on to the web. About five shuttle throws in, I realized that I didn’t actually put the heddle on the right shaft. But, I reasoned, this is just a sample and the threading errors don’t actually mean anything. There are plenty of other errors. You are behind schedule anyway!

I continued to throw the shuttle.

Saturday morning, I got up at dark o’thirty and threw the shuttle:

When I’d run out of warp, I cut the cloth off the loom, serged the edges, and took a lunch break. Then drove down to Webs for the cotton I needed for the omgUrgentProject!. (New cotton visible in the right hand picture.)

By Saturday late afternoon/early evening, I had started measuring:

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Compared to the linen, this cotton is SO SOFT.

Sunday morning when the sun was finally up:

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I was measuring the fourth bout when I took this picture.

Sunday about 11:00am:

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The winding begins!

I took a lunch break and started my weekly laundry, and when I was done winding on, then spent a couple of hours threading heddles. This project has 576 ends (yarns), and this step seems to be the longest.

I threw that linen sample in the wash and into the dryer to soften it up. It came out almost opposite of how it went in: stiff and something one would associate with a thin jute mat for the floor to limp, buttery soft, and almost silk-like in drape. It’s not quite what I envisioned it would be (not so fuzzy), but it will still be useful. After hemming, I will use the two pieces as dish or hand towels to see how they wear.

Around 3pm, I sat down to practice cello, and was back at the loom almost three hours later.

By Sunday evening about 8:30, I had completed threading heddles and had about 3″ worth of the warp in the reed, but had to get to bed.

Got up at 5:15 Monday morning, made tea, ate breakfast, and by 6:30, I had the reed finished and had tied on:

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By my own schedule, I’m still a day behind. I’m not sure I can catch up, but that isn’t going to stop me from trying. Last night, when I got home from work, I made a quick supper, and got to work: measure and put on a floating selvedge, add weights to the warp on the selvedges, start throwing the shuttle.

This part is super exciting, because throwing the shuttle is where you finally get to see the pattern happen, but also where you get to see if you made a threading or sleying error. Turns out, I made a sleying error. It was not too hard to fix, but it did cost me about 30 minutes.

By about 8:00 last night:

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I’m very pleased with how this is turning out. I had forgotten how lovely unmercerized cotton is – it’s soft and drapey and very forgiving in the selvedges in a way linen just isn’t. I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to get one towel woven every evening this week. That may be pushing it, but I have been able to weave a single towel in an hour and a half, and it’s good to have goals, right? I wanted to have all six (or nine, the whole warp) woven and hemmed in time to be mailed on Saturday afternoon, but I may have to wait until Tuesday morning. (Monday is a bank holiday.)

Fingers crossed I can weave like the wind!

 

Fixing things, making things, hanging things

Time marches on too quickly! Oh boy, have I been busy.

After house and pet sitting for a couple of weeks, I slept for a couple of weeks. I finished the grey towels – more to come on those. Then I discovered that I had a sticky brake caliper on one side of my car. Drat! Having come from a family that just fixes things and has most of the tools to do it, my brother came over and we replaced rotors and pads on both sides, and the caliper on one side. (It goes so much faster with two people.) After a long afternoon, I have fully functioning brakes now! Woo!


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My friend Lee has asked me to weave a blanket for her out of bamboo yarn. She bought some yarn for a sample, and I doodled. It’s not great – there are so many mistakes – but the point of a sample is to find out how to work with the yarn, how it compares with other yarns, and what the end texture/weight/hand of the piece will be after wet finishing. I was not at all sure I liked it the whole time it was on the loom. It seemed to behave like a yarn somewhere between mercerized cotton and tencel, and I couldn’t help but wonder if it would just stay stiff and, well, like a kitchen towel. I don’t think I’d like a blanket that draped on me like a kitchen towel. But after washing, whoa nelly! It became a buttery soft cloth with the most amazing drape. Of course, it’s a kind of rayon, so I would expect fabulous drape, but I didn’t really expect the texture! It’s awfully close to resembling the hand of silk.

The yarn itself is a bit too light for a blanket, so we put that sample aside, and I’ve purchased a couple of cones of heavier yarn for another sample. I have enough of this new yarn to weave a sample that may also be useful, like a scarf. Stay tuned!


So there’s this international event that happens annually called Spinzilla. Basically, it’s a contest to see who can spin the most yarn (regardless of quality) in a week. There are teams and just random single people competing, and they just sit at the spinning wheel or carry around a drop spindle and spin spin spin. A friend of mine who has been participating since the very first Spinzilla encouraged me to join a team she was on this year, so I did. I even took a couple of days off work in order to have more time to spin, because that is the kind of person I am (coughcompetitivecough). I bought fiber for this purpose (which was REALLY silly – I had fiber). And I worried immensely about not having enough of my lovely fleece combed to spin (also silly – did I mention I had fiber?). So I combed wool.

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I still can’t believe how soft and luscious this wool is!

I combed a lot. 3-4 hours in one sitting for a couple of days. My shoulders really ached after the second day. And while I was combing, I suddenly remembered that I might have some roving around that would be easy to spin and I wouldn’t have to comb so much wool…

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Yeah. I found some fiber I had forgotten about. So much fiber. So. Much.

Okay, so fiber like this squishes, and I had quite a bit squished in a bin or two. So I stopped combing and started spinning. And ended up with this:

Left: wool/silk blend (colors), Southdown breed blend (white).

Middle: wool/silk blend, two batches, spun and plied. (These need to be plied a bit tighter/with more twise, so I’ll be running them back through the spinning wheel soon.)

Right: All the wool I spun in a week! One of the white skeins is more tightly plied, and it shows – that one is okay. The other will have to be plied with more twist.

In the end, I was VERY pleased with the amount I had spun and what I had learned. I also realized that I probably should be more social than I am because being with a group of people felt…kind of weird. But I did also come away with some very unhappy upper back and shoulder muscles. Sigh. No, Kate, you should not comb wool for hours and hours, and then spin for hours and hours without getting up and moving around after not having done it for a year.

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So happy with this! I learned a lot.

I’m especially happy with the combed wool I spun. The picture above isn’t a good one (sorry), but it records a pretty well plied two ply worsted yarn – this is the stuff I’d been combing in the pictures above. This close up above is before I washed it, so it looks darker and stiffer than it turned out after washing. The goal for learning to spin this kind of yarn is to be able to weave a good, hard-wearing cloth from it. I have plenty of wool to spin, so lots of practice with. This is from a lovely sheep living in Greenfield, MA (I hope he’s still there!) who I’m pretty sure was a Romney, but probably has other breeds in him as well.

And, by the way, I am very happy to announce that the team I participated with – Team Webs – scored second place with a total of 131,008 yards spun. Yay!!


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Harlequin. Shot in September 2018. I love this one, and I want to print it again so much larger.

For the last couple of months, I’ve been sort of getting ready for a photography show. It’s very informal – the photos were to hang at a local bakery in Amherst, MA. I had some photos already printed and framed, and needed to get others printed and framed – I went to a local print shop for the printing, but I framed them myself. On paper, this all seems pretty straightforward, but one can never properly account for how much time it’s going to take: LOTS.

I am kind of in love with some of the recent shots I took over the past couple of months. I love the paper they’re printed on, I love the colors, I love the clarity.

The end of a long push forward came earlier today when I hung eleven of my photos at Henion Bakery in Amherst, MA. I cannot describe how delighted I am to share them with other people, but in the same way I cannot describe the equal amount of terror I feel over sharing them with other people. Perhaps all photographers feel this way? I don’t know – this “hanging art” thing is very new to me, and wonderful, and deeply scary.

Prints of all of them are for sale. Most of the framed pictures in the bakery are also for sale. Stop by if you’re in town, grab a cuppa and one of Henion’s out-of-this-world pastries (seriously, try them – you will not be disappointed!), and check out the art hanging on the walls. They’ll be up until just before Thanksgiving.

 


I have also made a huge push to get an online shop going, which has been much more complicated than it at first seemed. I did get it done, and while there are still many tweaks to be made, I have an online shop at last! I have called it Waldenweave Studio. Currently, there are handwoven kitchen towels for sale, but I do intend to get my photography on there, and probably some of the little books I’ve been binding. There is also always the possibility I’ll put some other doodle or two up there – I may have to change the webpage up a bit to accommodate so many categories. Evolution will likely happen, as it tends to with everything!

So, the grey towels:

All done and I’m very pleased with them. You can find them in my shop – if you’re in a country other than the United States and you’d like to buy one, let me know at kate@waldenweave.com or via the contact form at the shop. I haven’t got a chance to investigate shipping rates to anywhere else, so I haven’t added that to the shop yet.

Please stop by my shop and let me know what you think! I will need to investigate sales and coupons, too. 🙂 I feel like readers here may appreciate a coupon.


In my other spare time, I have been trying to measure out this new warp. It’s 100% linen, and really my first time weaving line linen, so I chose a slightly thicker-than-usual-for-me yarn to start with. I am pretty excited about this, though. Linen is a really wonderful fiber, and you don’t see a lot of quality linen cloth in this country. Most of it seems to be from China, and seems to be woven from the tow (short fibers, nice, but not as strong) rather than the line (long fibers, up to three feet long, very strong). The tow is nice, don’t get me wrong. It becomes soft and lovely, and still has many of the wonderful qualities of linen (breathable, anti-microbial, holds an awful lot of moisture before actually feeling wet to the touch), but it also sheds lint like crazy. And that means it’s much shorter lived than line linen. Line, I’m given to understand, will also get crazy, deliciously buttery soft, but will not shed lint, will last longer, and has a lovely sheen to it. Like antique linen sheets, if you’ve ever seen them (and by ‘antique’, I mean 100 years old – yes, you can actually have sheets that are 100 years old and they’re still good – welcome to linen).

This warp will hopefully become a couple of kitchen towels – I make a lot of those, but honestly, for samples of cloth, they’re pretty handy. You can beat them up and see what happens, you can wrap things in them, you can dry dishes, you can use it as a napkin, you can use it as a place mat, you can dry your hair with them…all kinds of stuff. Of course, if this works as well as I think it might, I have ideas about making some overshot linen things. Rugs maybe? Runners? Just cloth? Hmm. I could absolutely use a linen overshot rug in my life…

What about you?

 

 

 

Summer has come

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

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

Practicing the cello in this weather is challenging.

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

 

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

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

But wait. There’s more.

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

And now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

 

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

 

 

Finally, an update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

The things I find in Amherst.

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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Grace

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

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

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

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

New and Shiny: Overshot

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

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

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

Because just LOOK:

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It’s summer sunshine and dandelions in cloth form!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

And now back to throwing the shuttle!

 

Experiments: success and failure

The month of November has been tumultuous. Some projects were ongoing, some were started and came to a screeching halt. As with all projects, and in my case, experiments, there were successes and failures.

I started and made a bit of headway on a weaving project.

Warp measured and wound. Currently, I have about 1/3 of the heddles threaded, but had to stop due to a very unexpected injury. And actually, I’m not at all sure if I’m happy with the pattern I’ve threading. It’s currently a bird’s eye twill, but something tells me I might be happier with a simple herringbone. I could do this with the current threading by just altering the treadling, but, oh, I’m waffling. Waffle, waffle. In any case, I can’t actually continue threading, so I’m just letting threading ideas waft around in my head for a bit. I have time.

The sucky part of not being able to act on this project right now is that I have nothing to sell, and no gifts made for winter gift-giving holidays. Argh.

I did attempt to do some spinning, but that didn’t work out so well either. There was a bit of a tangle.

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Argh. Argh, argh, argh.

I did eventually get this sorted, and spun the rest of the little wool nest, but had to stop.

Quite a few of my friends have birthdays in October, so around the end of the month, I attempted tempering chocolate for to make presents!

The chocolates on the left are solid. The chocolates on the right are squares of dipped squares of ganache. They look so good, don’t they?

Unfortunately, this was not well-tempered chocolate – a week later, I discovered it had bloomed. Which was super embarrassing because I’d already given some away. When chocolate blooms, it’s completely edible, but the texture is a bit different as some fats come the the surface and it looks ugly. Back to the drawing board. But not for a bit yet.

I did sell two dish towels! The last two green ones that I was thinking about keeping got snapped up.

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On the way to the post office!

About 20ish years ago, I planted some seeds from a lemon I bought at the grocery store. They took ages, and I nearly gave up, but eventually, after some weeks, they germinated. I only have one left, and that one grew and grew into a fine tree. It comes inside in the winter, and goes outside in the summer. About two years ago, I found a couple of blossoms on it, which was very unexpected. I’d read up on growing lemons from seed, and they often result in a tree that never blooms. This one did, but since the blossoms ended up growing at the end of the year, they’d fall off when the tree was brought in – there is no sunny place in the house, so it spends the winter under (mostly inadequate) lights and in a dry environment.

This year, it bloomed while outside when no one was looking, and the bees did their thing! I also have a couple of Key lime trees I grew from seed, and they bloom every year prolifically, so I imagine the lemon got help from the limes and the bees. Suddenly, there fruit on the lemon tree. Just one. And it stayed there. And it grew!

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A lemon-sized lemon! Organically grown in Western Massachusetts!

It fell off the tree a few days ago, so now it’s in the fridge while I decide what to do with it. Candy the peel? Dry the peel? Freeze the juice? Make lemonade? I suspect it’s not quite ripe, but close enough.

(For anyone wondering, the variety is likely a Lisbon. It’s one of the most widely grown commercial lemons and has truly mighty thorns.)

Of course, I want a greenhouse someday to grow my orchids, lemon tree and lime trees.

So. On to the injury. And my Sekrit Experiment.

On September 1, 2017, I started cello lessons. This has been a dream since I was about 9, but I’d never before been in a position where I could 1. afford it, 2. where I had space, and 3. where I wasn’t going to bother the neighbours. Sometimes I’m a little slow on the uptake, but it occurred to me around August this year that I had all these conditions where I live now, and I might not by the spring when I have to move again. So, I thought I’d try it for three months to see if I really liked it.

I have never tried to play a stringed instrument before, and haven’t played any musical instruments regularly since I was about 18. I thought that part of my life was done. But I found a place to rent a cello and found a teacher. Three months. That was it. Then at least I could say I tried it.

What happened next was completely unexpected.

I set a goal of practicing one hour every day. Instead, I got lost in practicing and often went over one hour. On the weekends, it wasn’t unusual to practice for a couple of hours. Once I accidentally practiced for three hours – not all at once – but still. Oh, I’d set timers, and I’d blow right through them. The joy at working at this was (is) tremendous.

Was there progress? I think so. I can tell when I hit the right notes more often now. I hit that magical 100 hours of learning a new thing. I started learning a couple of very, very easy Baroque/Classical pieces.

I also acquired a shiny, new case of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome/one hell of a repetitive stress injury in my bow hand due to a too tight hold on the bow and not taking enough breaks.

This means that for the last three weeks, I’ve been sleeping with a brace, I have appointments with an occupational therapist, I am typing and mousing mostly with my left hand at work, and I am completely unable to do any of my other hobbies. I carry heating pads with me. There are ice packs at home at at work. Bowing has come to nearly a screeching halt. There has been crying and sadness. There was a period last week where I was sure I’d have to just give it up because this kind of injury seems to not completely disappear in most other people. I steeled myself. Moar sad.

Which is ridiculous! It’s just a cello! I don’t need it more than food and shelter!

Sigh.

So, experiment successful. And a catastrophe. Right now, I’m hoping I will be able to wield a shovel when the snow comes. And then maybe weave again. And practice cello. I am plucking now instead of bowing, and setting a goal of bowing in two to three 5 minute chunks with 20-30 minutes rest for the next week, and will go from there. Maybe I can weave again in a month or so. And shovel snow.

 

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:

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

 

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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?)

 

 

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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!