It’s been a minute. And not for lack of lots and lots of activity and making. Sometimes it’s hard to link together in a whole picture little bits of weaving here, some experiments there, and some growth elsewhere. One of the things I love about small format tapestry weaving, as well as weaving on unconventional looms, is that you can move them around, carry them with you, and finish them as you are able. That is the reality of my life these days. If not for moveable weaving, there’d be no weaving at all for me.
I wove this little tapestry on a Handywoman small tapestry loom that I love so much. I take it with me most places and love it when I pull out that little number instead of my phone. It helps, to weave. Seriously.
I’ve had this piece going for a while. It’s part of what I hope to be a series of tapestries flowing from drawings I’ve done when sitting with the idea of moments that distinctly create a before and after. More on that at some point.
I was on a drive recently with my daughter, soaking up beautiful Vermont autumn colors. I loved how not at all straight these grain rows are- I mean, isn’t that so reassuring? So beautiful and true?
We always have a moment, even if it’s brief, to decide.
Having several different projects going at a time is a habit I’ve gotten accustomed to over the years. I don’t have a schedule that allows me go to weave at my loom for entire days. Instead, I have bits of time here and there that I try to make good use of when I can. I used to judge this part of my nature, the part that flits from this to that. I wondered if I had a discipline problem, or some issue with commitment. Always the therapist, I’m often unpacking who I am and how I operate, and examining how my traits and tendencies impact my day-to-day life.
Well, in this case, I’ve learned that I really enjoy making things, at home, at work, on my loom, with kids, with adults, and by myself. I feel frustrated when the only thing I’m working on is not with me, leaving my hands idle and my mind clanking a bit. When I allow myself to indulge in the many-projects-at-once rhythm, I get to eventually enjoy what I refer to now as my creative crescendo; so often many things are finished around the same time and I have this wonderful experience of seeing multiple ideas and efforts come to fruition at once.
Right now, I’ve got this vibe going in full-force. There’s a curtain (hopefully) on my counterbalance loom, towels on my rigid heddle, a tapestry on my copper pipe loom, another tapestry on a small frame loom, and oh… that second mitten I’ve been wanting to finish knitting for months.
What I’m noticing about a few of my projects is that they are going after a feeling or sense experience that I can best describe as airy. I want my curtain to be as flowing and loose as I can manage weaving it, with bits of structure and form throughout. This is an experiment as I try my hand at weaving with 20/2 cotton as the warp and using inlay throughout. I’m not using a pattern or following any directions. I’ve already learned something. I have my 20/2 warp sett at 12 epi, and I originally hoped to use the same yarn for the plain weave weft; the inlay was going to be a thicker cotton slub yarn that has a yummy texture. Well, what I learned was that the fabric was just too loose. I was beating it lightly to maintain an openness and transparency. I basically wanted a curtain that blended in with air. But what I found was that if I even looked at the fabric funny, the weave drooped and flopped, making it look injured and offended. When I started considering finding a spray adhesive and shellacking the whole thing once it was done, I realized I’d maybe made a mistake, chalked it up to my steep learning curve, and switched gears. I am going to try to use the experiment to cover some beautiful handmade paper I have, so all is not lost.
Now, I’m weaving the curtain with the same warp, but with the thicker cotton slub yarn as weft, beat loosely (still finding the right beat and trying to keep it consistently). I can’t do the same inlay design I was doing because I’m using that yarn for the plain weave. I decided instead on this twine, jute-like string/rope/yarn I have and opted to just lay it in, leaving both ends exposed. This is a departure from the inlay techniques I was planning on practicing with this curtain, but that’s okay. I’ll get to them. I love the twine because you can unravel it and it becomes this wild grass-like stuff. It smells good, too. I’m hoping my curtain will still feel airy, but I suspect it will hang with a little more purpose and won’t be so vulnerable to the passing breeze or occasional handling as my original design would have been.
On my rigid heddle, I’ve got an actual pattern that I’m following. It’s another slub cotton project, this time towels. I love weaving with this yarn! It’s soft, gentle, light. Clasped weft is the main weaving technique utilized in this pattern, and it’s very satisfying to watch it build up. Getting the beat right on this project takes some doing. You can see on the bottom right that I’m beating too hard in the clasped weft section that is newly begun, but I’m working that out. I’m definitely turning into a person that uses a tape measure as a necklace! Ha! I’ll share pics of these towels when they’re done.
I’ll get to the tapestry work in another post, but for now, I hope that whatever you’re doing, there’s some room for creativity and texture, even if it’s just here and there. All those moments add up and make something, eventually.
It’s been a weird period of time. Surprisingly busy and full in the midst of a pandemic. I’ve been working a lot in my multiple roles as a therapist, a teacher, a weaver and now, a writer. And I’ve been living a lot in my life as a partner, mom, sibling, daughter and friend, with varying degrees of presence. There are not enough hours to do all the things, and it’s a choice, always, what and what not to do. And frankly, like so many, my choosing button got busted with all of the micro and macro decisions that needed making due to pandemic day-to-day details. In the midst of that, I’ve gotten to do a bit of weaving- not much because for how time consuming it can be, projects have taken me so much longer to complete than I’d like, but I wanted to catch you up on what has come off the loom since I last wrote.
I did finish the Slitrya blankets! This was a process and it took me forever! Tying all those rya knots was no joke. I also keep meaning to go back and read the pattern again; I went wrong somewhere in my following of directions because I followed the pattern through and was supposed to be able to repeat it twice (I lengthened the warp to allow for that) but one time through and I had woven most of the warp (that was doubled!). I do know the yarn I used was thicker than it should have been, but something else went awry. So, I cut the length of fabric into parts and got two blankets that measured correctly, plus a little extra where I experimented with different yarns. I gave one of the blankets to my weaving teacher and friend, Lausanne, who was tickled! You know, lap blankets are rad! I used mine in my office that got a bit chilly over the winter with the door closed. Just enough warmth to make me comfortable.
So, there is the completion of that project! I have more to update you on other makings, but I figured I’d wrap up that loose end first. I did love making this blanket, and truly, it’s so satisfying to look at and be warmed by. Here’s a good Handwoven article about slitrya and its history. There’s always an ancestral history to a weaving structure, which is probably what I love the most about it.
I hope that whatever you are doing, making, or bringing into fruition, it brings you contentment.
Well, hello… it’s been a while. How do we catch up after so much time? My last post was in July of 2020. Since then, I’ve become a homeschooling mom, I’ve started co-writing a book about grief that lingers beyond the time our culture demands is appropriate, I’ve barely knit or woven a thing except for a sweater, hat and booties for a soon-to-arrive little baby niece (oh, I cannot wait to meet her), and I’ve been riding the wave of pandemic life that is really pretty goddamned grueling.
Today at the store, I was double-masking it because I <heart> Anthony Fauci and he says it’s a good idea in some instances. But the second mask I had on was too big and every time I looked down into the bag I was filling, it would scooch up into my eyes and I couldn’t see a freaking thing. This was after I couldn’t help my son with his math because maybe I skipped that class? And, it was after I took a good look at what’s happened to my hair since my last real haircut & color about a year and a half ago, maybe two. So… the mask thing almost, almost made me have a temper tantrum right then and there in the middle of my neighborhood grocery. Why? Not because that’s been the most stressful thing to happen of late. Not even close. Like any good old-fashioned tantrum, they are born from buildup. An accumulation of things that exceed the nervous system’s capacity to metabolize stress. Finally there is the last straw. Usually that poor straw is puny, so to the casual observer, it just looks like someone is losing it over the “dumbest thing”. But it’s never like that. It’s just a dumbest thing that tips the scale too far into Freakoutsville. Today, my last straw was having a mask on my mouth and on my forehead at the same time. Thankfully, I did have enough self-control left in my un-Buddhalike-self to realize I could not handle an embarrassing scene over the decision I myself made about my own mask attire. Maybe it was the dude giving me side-eye as I kept adjusting and readjusting the civic duty gone wrong on my face. “What? Didn’t you see this is how we’re supposed to do it now, bro?”, I imagined challenging him while he slowly and cautiously unloaded his groceries onto the conveyor belt. As much as I wanted to blame some concrete thing, or even Side-Eye Guy for my situation, I knew there was no one but me who could pull it together. After I fumbled through the credit card machine process and then remembered to be grateful for what I have, I gathered my bag of frozen corn and peas and package of chicken, and made my way home.
I miss my people. It hurts something fierce. And my heart is breaking for the millions who are grieving those they lost in this last year. Whether loved ones died from COVID-19 or from something else, no doubt about it, the rituals and rhythms that are built into the fabric of who we are, and which hold survivors in their grief, were experienced very differently because of the pandemic. No matter where we live, what we believe, and who we wish to when we ask for anything in our quiet moments, all who have lost someone are part of a new group. This group has its own stories, memories, symbols, anguish and wisdom that are making up history as we live it. I guess it’s easier to get wicked mad at a mask poking me in the eyes than reckoning with global pain sometimes.
Anyway! Sorry to be a downer, but this is why I haven’t written! Who needs more people talking about how much things have sucked? I do want to share some things though, to cross the bridge back to my love of all things yarny, wooly and textured. I have a new studio space where my looms and most of my yarn reside. This development came to be after I had to close my tiny office in Burlington in the spring. I realized pretty quickly into the pandemic that it’d be a good long time before anyone would be wanting to meet in person again, at least in the space I had, and serendipitously, an opportunity arose at the Shelburne Pond Studios that was basically completely perfect for my varied needs as a therapist, fiber artist/crafter, writer and now momentary homeschooler. It has also allowed for me to unclog parts of my home that housed all of what I’ve collected for my fibrous passions over the years. Blessings on many fronts with us home all the time. I am starting to imagine spring, summer and fall there, and all the sorts of things I might be able to do inside and out with other “masked” people who want to create and play with yarn. I can feel the energy coming back and that is exciting. There’s going to be a lot to weave out of our bodies and our nervous systems as we try to make sense of all that has happened and continues to unfold.
It’s been so long since I have written here. There are a lot of reasons for that, but the umbrella reason that covers all of the smaller ones is that, simply put, the world became a bit too intense and it was hard to write about my fibery art passion without feeling like somehow I was lying… you know? Like how so many social media platforms give people the opportunity to only show one little image that captures one little staged moment that suggests something that isn’t fully real, entirely honest, wholly transparent. I’ve been guilty of that, too, for sure, but when grief and stress get big, it’s hard to keep that going. And eventually I had to ask myself why I ever did, and why I ever would?
I have missed it here, though. And I have missed talking to so many people who love yarn, wool, fiber art, knitting, weaving, creativity, dyeing with flowers, weaving with sticks, learning new stuff, and just sharing all the wonderful things that go along with handcrafting. I am acutely aware of how much I have missed it now that so many of us are sequestered in our homes as a result of COVID-19. I am feeling the weight of not being with community, and I’m realizing that in this incredibly intense moment that the world is sharing together, that some things are so big and so global, that just being is where it’s at. Personal grief is transformed into shared communal grief, as well as shared communal hope and strength.
We really are all in this together. And staying connected through what we love is where the energy is at. At least some of it.
I hope you are doing alright, and that you are taking good care. What are you working on during these days of COVID-19?
I’m working on a sweater that is taking a wee bit longer than expected due to pesky arthritis.
With the greater amount of time home, I’ve finally picked up an art project that I put down almost a year ago… I just fulled this wooly, 6-foot shawl that is part of my Weaving A Life final project… more to come on that.
And, I’m about to get back to weaving towels with this poor neglected warp that has been on my four-harness loom since before Christmas!
Maybe now really will be the time to finish up all those neglected projects?
[when] “…the creative force now turns to the place of the soul, you will see how your soul becomes green and how its field bears wonderful fruit.” ~ from Carl Jung’s The Red Book, quoted in The Orphan: A Journey to Wholeness, by Audrey Punnett
I was thirty-eight years old when I picked up yarn again, to make a knitted ball for my children. Sitting in that peaceful place with a peaceful teacher/guide during those early years of growing into parenthood, I found anew a place in me that was creative, that wanted to make, share and give. Seven years have passed since I sat in that rocking chair next to other mothers, most of us knitting, all of us watching our children play. All that has happened in seven years, it’s so much, really.
It is a frequent lamentation of mine that I did not realize how much I love texture and wool, sculpture and cloth when I walked through the Fine Arts Department halls at the university I attended, just shy of thirty years ago. Delivering mail, returning books others borrowed, running errands for the college’s deans, I passed beautiful and audacious fiber art hanging from walls and ceilings. Twine, mesh, weaving and wire sculptures were everywhere. How did this thing that drives me now, this deepest longing to learn all I can in this fibery art and craft world not have been awakened when I traversed those halls? What was I doing!
But here now, just when I worry there won’t be time to learn all I want to learn, I check myself and remember that all there is is this present moment. And it requires full attention. Parenting, relationship, work, creativity, love. And a devotion to tending to and doing what wakes the soul up, what grabs the spirit’s attention.
It’s that devotion that had me untangling a mess of yarn in humid heat today. It’s that tending to that had me sitting next to my loom, solving what continues to be a personal riddle~ getting the warp onto the loom without too much disarray! When will I stop sweating with anxiety when I go to take the warp off the warping board?
It’s the soul that wants to make beautiful things for people I love, and that has grown to weather all of this learning and longing.
Have a wonderful weekend. I hope you get to do things you love.
I watched my sister’s dog the other day, while she was out with my littles. A trade. With my furry niece, I sat under a tree. Pitch got stuck on my fingers. I realized I need to sit under trees with my children more.
And their seeds…
A misty river visit on an afternoon drive. Here, I felt close to many in my family who have passed away. Touching the cold, clear water, I told them all I miss them.
We drove up a mountain. I live in Vermont but I don’t go up very high most of the time. Scared the hell out of me. Not gonna lie.
Wisdom is everywhere. It does pay to go up high every now and then.
A doll I made. It’s me, when I’m old.
Off to a lecture at UVM, and in between events today I’ll work on finishing the second sleeve of my sweater.
Sheesh, it’s been a while. A raucous cold, a busy schedule, a lost cat, and maybe a few too many projects really got me off my writing groove. But, I went for a run yesterday to try to get my blood moving again, and today I’m back to writing here and on another project. Feels good.
I’ve taken to rising early again, well before anyone else in the house is stirring. It’s so much easier to do when it stays dark longer into the morning. I love those quiet moments. And truly, coffee tastes the very best at a little past 5am.
There are simply not enough hours in the day to do it all. So, making decisions and abiding by priorities is where it’s at.
I’m going through the process of making eight projects Susan developed, with her support, guidance and wisdom along the way. Two and a half projects in and I’m already profoundly moved. I’ll write about the whole process when I’m done. For now, all that I am learning and gathering for myself is precious and intimate. When I’m through, I’ll be able to work with others in this way, which is a dream come true.
I’m spinning wool almost every night after my kids go to bed in order to have a sweet selection to sell at a craft fair in November.
I’m tending to a sad and worried heart, of my own and my children, due to our missing cat. He’s been gone for almost a week but was sighted this morning. With the weather changing, it’s hard not to feel frantic.
I’m working on another weaving project and struggling with warp tension due to shoddy wrapping on the beam. Frustrating!
And tending to family, home, career, body, mind, spirit in these crazy heartbreaking times…
Yesterday evening I took a piece off my rigid heddle loom I’d started weeks ago. September 1st, I think.
I used a yummy mohair yarn and what I’m fairly certain is a kind of thick cotton thread. I love autumn-esque colors. I was going for a shawl that both looks warm and delicate, airy and solid. I also wanted to practice a weaving technique called Leno as described in the book, Inventive Weaving on a Little Loom, by Syne Mitchell.
The cotton thread behaved so much differently than the wool yarn. It is much less forgiving and had almost no elasticity. Sometimes the selveges were a catastrophe. I thought about bailing on the project about halfway through because I was worried it was just a hot mess and I should start over. Then I got stubborn and opted to carry on ~ best case scenario, I reasoned, was that I’d love the shawl and want to show it to the world, imperfections and all. Worst case? That once off the loom I’d lament wasting hours of my life weaving cloth not fit for mouse bedding.
I tried out some things in an effort to minimize loose ends. Oh loose ends! They are part of things, aren’t they?
When I had to switch colors (according to my own pattern; I’d arrange the color changes much differently if I were to make this again) I tried securing the loose threads in the loop of the weft as it was going back through the warp. That worked out pretty well. Wish I’d have figured that out sooner!
Taking the shawl off the loom was nerve wracking! Not sure why. It feels both sturdy and fragile at the same time, and all of the loose ends made me wonder how the hell I’d get them all sewn in without ruining the fabric.
There it is all laid out.
I stayed up until the wee hours last night sewing all the strands in, those that couldn’t be trimmed as they were. It was so worth it.
The shawl isn’t blocked yet but here it is. I’m so happy I kept at it. I learned so much about how different threads behave, selveges, the utter importance of a proper tension in all warp threads (obvious I know, but I thought I’d done that and still there were problems throughout. I think I need to make smaller groups of weft threads in the beginning stages).
Here’s an up-close view of the general pattern.
Here’s some unfortunate selvege proof.
And there’s me, still proud as hell of this piece!
I’m a lucky person, having friends and family who share beautiful things with me when they come across them because they think I’d like them too. That’s a lovely thing that people do.
My buddy John just introduced me, via Vimeo, to Monica Hofstadter of Doucement. Let this lovely video swirl around you for a while. It captures so much beauty and loveliness and gentleness in the midst of super lush arm knitting set to lilting dream music. What a joy!
That’s all I got today! I wanted to share this with you, because I thought you’d like it.