Little Looms, Big Ideas

In preparing for the pin loom workshop, lists were written, items crossed off, new lists created and those items crossed off, and finally I realised I was ready… with a week to spare.

This was a relief and also a bit annoying. I’ve been looking forward to the workshop, but also to getting stuck into some big meaty project afterwards. I didn’t want to start something that would need my full attention until the workshop was done. So for that spare week I had to look for short projects to fill the time. It was hot so no gardening. I didn’t want to risk a back flare up and migraine on the workshop day, either so no hobbies that might cause that.

I had considered making pin looms to sell, so I had a go at making one out of an old picture frame. It worked, but doing multiples of these would take too much time and put too much strain on my back. It’s a lot of nails to hammer.

I also made a half size loom at the vintage Weave-it loom nail spacing so I could make smaller wire squares, then turn them into a necklace:

Then I returned to the Jane loom and my Moustache Echo warp:

I decided not to work my way through the treadlings I’d come up with, but instead weave a scarf using the first one. Of course, I found a threading error only a few cm in, but once I’d fixed that and got into the swing of it I began to enjoy the weaving. As my brain memorised the pattern, I let my mind wander… to thinking about what I’ll do after the pin loom workshop. Dammit brain!

There’s the two tops I wove fabric for to sew. And two new garments to make on the Bond. And that 16 shaft loom I keep saying I’m going to make. And there’s still a loooot of work to do in the garden.

Well, at least I can’t say I have nothing to do!

Fresh Indigo

On the weekend I had a short one-on-one workshop with Amanda (@theweaversworkroom on Insta) on dyeing with fresh indigo leaves. It was a lot of fun, first beating leaves with a mallet onto cloth to make imprints:

I brought two long-sleeved t-shirts I’d picked up on sale. The leaves made only faint green marks on the first, but on the second, which I’d soaked in soy milk a few weeks ago, I got darker, bluer shapes. I intend to do more printing with the indigo I’m growing from seed Amanda sold last year.

Next we tried the salt rub method.

The lefthand skein is some leftover silk I’d bought. The middle yarn is commercial wool yarn. The rightmost skein is some silk handspun. We got good colour from the method, especially on the wool.

Lastly we tossed lots of indigo in a blender and strained the juice before dyeing some of Amanda’s yarn, and then I tossed in the first t-shirt I’d dyed to get a nice pale duck-egg blue solid colour overall.

It was a lovely morning that felt as much like play as a lesson thanks to Amanda’s enthusiasm and generosity. I’m definitely going to be doing more fresh leaf dyeing… after my indigo recovers from the scorching heat the following day. So far it’s looking much happier so maybe I’ll get some dyeing done next weekend.

Catch Up/Clean Up

I don’t make New Years resolutions, but it is has always been my favourite celebration of the year because I like to look back and consider the good things of the last year as well as look forward in a optimistic way. But of you’d seen me the first week of 2021 you’d have got the impression I had made some resolutions. We’ve been getting stuck into the garden and house chores and clearing out old stuff.

When it comes to the garden, a great deal is simply maintenance that didn’t happen because of my thumb sprain followed by a back flare up and then a slightly niggly right knee I’m not supposed to put my weight on for a while. We have an acre, so that’s a LOT of garden chore backlog. Still, we’re tacking one garden area at a time, aiming to get 99% done. The other 1% is the fun part – like choosing plants and planning to make garden sculptures, which will happen with inspiration strikes.

When it comes to clearing out old stuff, I’ve not targeted anything specific. The main areas I usually cull are clothes and craft and they got clear outs last year. Instead I’ve been noticing at an object and realising I don’t want it, and adding it to the op shop pile.

That got me thinking about wasteful gift-giving. Not the presents you choose carefully for the people you are closest to, but the ones I call Crappy Gifts of Obligation, or their evil cousin: Crappy Festive Themed Gifts of Obligation. The stuff that ends up in the op shop pile.

It’s like a slow disease that’s infected our culture, displacing the stock you actually want to buy in bookshops, haberdashery shops and electronics stores because it’s a way to make an extra quick buck. And it really is, because it runs on guilt. One year you go to the family Christmas party and someone has bought everyone these CGoOs, people feel bad that they didn’t do the same, and the next year everyone is doing it and the CGoO buying has multiplied exponentially.

(When this happened to me a few years ago, I started cooking my famous shortbreads and packing them in jars. Everyone loved them so much I’m kinda stuck baking 300+ shortbreads each year even though the CGoOs seem to have stopped. Except now it’s started on the other side of the family. Just as well I like baking!)

I’ve digressed…

Anyway, hot weather put the brakes on the gardening after six days of hard work, and the general sleepiness of summer has set in, as well as a need to make sure I’m 150% ready for the pin weaving workshop I’m running soon. I may be swapping cleaning up for napping and a little bit of making.

Books Read in 2020

At the beginning of the year I dove into reading almost like my old self, but when I developed de Quervains even holding my phone hurt, so I stopped. I picked up and put down a few books since then, but finished nothing.

Here’s what I read:

Stormlord’s Exile Glenda Larke
Crown of Midnight Sarah J Mass
Heir of Fire Sarah J Mass
Queen of Shadows Sarah J Mass
Empire of Storms Sarah J Mass
Tower of Dawn Sarah J Mass
Kingdom of Ash Sarah J Mass
We Ride the Storm Devin Madson
The Golden Thread Kassia St Clair
Upheaval Jared Diamond
Pandemics: a very short introduction Christian W. McMillen
Tim Gunn: The Natty Professor Ada Calhoun
The Shuttle-Craft Book Of Hand-Weaving Mary Meigs Atwater
The Spanish Flu Epidemic and its Influence on History Jaime Breitnauer
Tim Gunn’s Fashion Bible Ada Calhoun and Tim Gunn

Hmm. When I look at the last few books, I do wonder if pandemic anxiety had a part to play in me abandoning reading. I tend to read non-fiction when I can’t concentrate on fiction. It doesn’t have plot threads demanding ongoing brain space.

The Year of Craft

January

At the beginning of the year most of my crafting time was taken up with preparing for the rigid heddle workshop. Which went well and had great feedback.

I attended the Rug Weaving workshop with Gerlinde Binning, which was fun and covered many kinds of weaving.

A high pressure cooker and copper tubing enabled me to distil lavender oil. then eucalyptus.

February

I gave myself rsi using the circular knitting machine to make possum pouches and charity beanies.

March

Some refashioning happened: a scarf added to a cardigan, old caftans turned into shorts and a top, a dress turned into a skirt.

A trip overseas cancelled. The first lockdown. A tea towel warp finished.

Lots and lots and lots of fabric strip preparation ready for weaving rag rugs

April

A shadow weave jacket project that failed, but also stitched doubleweave dishcloths that succeeded.

May

My last (maybe literally) book was published and the publicity shifted to live video.

So did socialising. I tried temari during the first Sweary Stitchers Zoom Sessions.

So did the 4-shaft certificate course. In many ways, it was better that way. With everything else cancelled I put my creative time into exploring the subjects we covered beyond the class requirements, really expanding my knowledge of lace and doubleweave in particular.

June

I finished the Country Rug:

And I wove the Little Fluffy Clouds fabric. The weaving yarns were culled. I bought an old 16 shaft table loom that I decided I would remake.

July

I bought a much newer 16 shaft Leclerc Voyageur loom, bring my loom count to double digits. The second lockdown started.

August

The pain in my thumb was diagnosed as de Quervain’s tenosynovitis and I had to wear a splint for six weeks.

I wove my first deflected doubleweave piece, using the warp I painted at one of Kay’s classes.

And I wove the Seta Soie Silk into twill fabric for a top.

September

Finally I was ready to warp up and weave two more flannelette rag rugs.

I sewed two pairs of pants, one from an old hemp sheet and the other from a tablecloth. The hemp one will be dyed.

I sold the Voyageur and Osbourne looms. Back to single digits!

October

The splint came off ready to do a Echo and Jin workshop.

I was also working out the draft for the Decoded Dishcloths.

November

The second lockdown slowly came to an end, mostly.

I did a Deflected Doubleweave as Collapse workshop.

December

Another stash cull, only this time the knitting yarns.

I finished the Decoded Dishcloths.

I began the year with the intention of it being all about weaving education, from my own to moving into teaching. While I was successful at expanding upon my own knowledge and experience, I eventually set aside ambitions of teaching on a regular basis. It wasn’t the pandemic, which would have only put things off or directed me to teaching online, but a handful of situations and comments that chipped way at my resolve and certainty. By the end of the year I concluded that if such things made me doubt myself so deeply, then I wasn’t cut out for it. I don’t need another source of stress in my life. I’ll stick to what I’m good at.

Happy New Year

Or maybe it would be more practical to wish people a “Get By Okay New Year”. I don’t think many people have high expectations of 2021. A vaccine will help, but it isn’t going to be available for a few months in Australia, and then we’ve got quite a way to go before Paul and I can get it. It’ll be a while before we really know how long it will last for, too, and so we’ll still have to be cautious.

I decided a few weeks back that my motto for 2021 was “Be Flexible”. I’ll be resisting making plans too far ahead. In January I want to do two things: prepare and run the pin loom workshop, and get on top of the garden chores (mainly watering, an acre’s worth of weeding and maybe 20 square metres of mulch to spread).

No other weaving goals. I have the moustache sampler on the Jane loom and the three heddle twill on the AKL to work on, but with no particular deadline or urgency.

I’d like to get some sewing done. Last weekend I culled my sewing stash and to-do list. Sewing handwoven fabric projects takes precedence, then there are some refashions and ‘from scratch’ projects. There’s no hurry there, either. It’s not like I need more clothing.

As for the rest of the year, there’s the 8-shaft weaving certificate, which I’ve signed up and paid the deposit for. And some workshop opportunities coming up in the first half of the year. Art classes will resume if the pandemic situation gets back under control, and I want to try some of the local art association’s classes.

Being flexible will not only allow for cancellations and unpredictability due to Covid, but also my parent’s needs, which I suspect are going to grow this year. I’ve even been considering how we would accommodate my Dad, if we looked after him at home. The loom room would become his bedroom, so would I try to fit all my craft stuff in one room or make the entertainment room my studio? Hmm.

A friend asked me what 2020 taught me. I replied that my faith in people at a community level had been restored. Only a small percentage have been selfish and stupid, at least in this country. But my faith in humanity’s ability to stop destroying the planet and therefore itself had been badly broken.

Then a chat with friends yesterday had me feeling more upbeat. Not because we solved anything, but because it reminded me that I’m not the only one trying to do my part. That maybe the far larger percentage of people being selfless and smart will, eventually, make enough difference.

Dishcloth Weaving

Turning the draft for the dishcloths was, initially, not quite 100% successful. I was able to get plain weave on all four sides for hems, but not in the corners. The corners would be folded into the hem anyway, so I figured it didn’t matter. Once the Deflected Doubleweave sampler came off the Lotus the dishcloths went on.

Slowly.

The back issues I had and the migraines they triggered meant I couldn’t approach a loom for days, and then only for very short sessions. Threading with the deflected threads at the same time as the ground warp was time-consuming, too. When I finally had it all threaded I began tying up the treadles and I realised I had two treadles tied the same.

Hmm. If I eliminated one it would free up a treadle, and maybe I could get those corners to come out as plain weave.

So I went back to Fibreworks and as I was deleting the duplicated treadle I realised there was another pair of duplicates. I sorted that as well, leaving two extra treadles to play with. More tweaking followed and I had it: a draft with plain weave in all the right places.

I also increased the sett by 150% except on the edges. As I got weaving I saw that this had been the right decision.

After weaving one dishcloth I ran out of the ground yarn. I was expecting to, but when I went to buy it from my usual supplier I found it was out of stock. I could have searched around for other sources, but I decided to play with other 16/2 cottons in my stash. This turned out to be a good idea.

First I tried red, then pink, then, at Paul’s suggestion, stripes of colour. After that I did a rather patriotic red, white and blue, and finally I tried using a linen yarn – which worked surprisingly well and didn’t pull in at the sides.

These six dishcloths quite a bit of time and brain energy for something I could have bought for a few dollars. But I saw it as an intellectual challenge and I’m really chuffed to have figured them out. Next time I weave them – if there’s a next time – it should be a lot faster. But I do need to come up with a better way to wrangle a supplemental warp. I had to put this one on lease sticks tied to the back beam, to stop the bundles of them twisting around each other then getting caught on the heddles when I advanced the warp. Perhaps if I threaded them through some sort of suspended reed. It’s going to be an ongoing conundrum.

StaSHHHH!

There are a couple of posts I usually compile at the turn of the year. There’s the yearly summary, the list of books I’ve read, and the stash flash. It’s a bit early for any of these, but I’ve just examined my yarn stash so I thought I might do that post now.

The latter was inspired partly by a friend’s efforts at clearing the estate of a crafter. It’s an overwhelming job even though the deceased’s husband is still in the house so it’s not a full clear-out. The woman must have had no financial limit to the money she could spend on her hobbies, and the belief she would live forever. Yesterday I looked through a box of of beads, all of one size, that together would have cost over $500 to buy new. Most of the bags were bulk size and unopened. And that’s just one box of many. I wouldn’t have been surprised to learn the deceased had run a craft shop that closed and she kept the remaining stock, by the sheer scale of what she owned.

It’s had my friend and I thinking about craft and hoarding. I don’t feel bad for the woman for having so much stuff. I hope it brought her joy. But I don’t want to be like her. So my thoughts turned to my stash. Especially to the yarn I picked up at destash sales in the last few years. Most of which is knitting yarn.

Knitting yarn? What was I thinking?

Well, I can answer that too easily. I wanted yarn for my new circular knitting machines. I was also thinking that I could use it on the Bond, or weave with it, and it would be good for teaching rigid heddle weaving. I was thinking that they don’t make yarn like they used to and non-machine washable yarn is getting harder to find. I was thinking that brown may be out of fashion but I like it. I was thinking ‘Oooh! Purty! Soooft!’.

For each and every batch of yarn I bought I could see pictures in my head of what it could become. I still do. It was all entered into my stash spreadsheet, carefully categorised. It all became part of my impossibly long project to-do list.

It’s comforting, though, knowing that if I can’t go out and buy yarn there is enough in my stash to keep me busy. Whenever I thought about it realistically, I had to admit it was unlikely that I’d ever be in that situation. Then this year happened.

But isolation hasn’t validated this reason for having a stash. There was still mail order, even if it was slow unless you paid for express post. Did I use stash instead of buying more yarn? No. I bought more yarn. For workshops. (I have no regrets. I learned so much!)

The other reason I looked at my stash was to consider what to make next. I’m thinking of maybe taking a break from weaving by setting up the Bond and machine knitting a garment or two. Or picking an easy project I can weave when I’m not feeling alert enough for the Echo sampler on the Jane. Rugs. Throws. Scarves. Fast, gratifying weaving that will use up some of the knitting yarns I probably shouldn’t have bought.

What I wound up with was a list of projects I could make, with notes on whether I’d keep or gift the item or learn something from making it. Then I culled the stash based on that, with 2 1/2 kilos of yarn going out. It’s in a giant bag with some of the yarn I culled last time, mid-year, but couldn’t find homes for most of it because of lockdown.

On Not Making Plans for 2021

If this year taught me anything, it’s that there’s no point making plans in a time of crisis. Instead, flexibility and adaptability are needed. Despite this, I had planned for next year to be structured around the 8-shaft certificate of weaving at the Guild. It seemed like the one stable, sure thing. But due to a lack of sign-ups, it will now start mid-year.

That shattered my assumptions about it being a sure thing, and I realised I need to be prepared for it to not go ahead at all, and that maybe I shouldn’t even be thinking in terms of picking any task for any specific length of time. Perhaps I need to shake off the long-held, work-learned habit of taking on a big project and instead aim for a state of continual but flexible occupation.

Of course, whatever I do I will be constrained by my health. Though my thumb is better, the hand therapist said it would always be prone to flare ups so I must be careful. My back is worse. Much worse. In the last month it’s been severe enough to trigger migraines. I’m blaming the closing of the pilates clinic during lockdown. Though I did exercises at home, they were constrained for a long time by the fact I couldn’t put weight or stress on my thumb. I don’t think I can go back to the classes I was doing because it’s going to take a careful restart and slow build to get things back to the way they were. So I’m going to start one-on-one sessions at my physio’s clinic next year.

It frustrates me how unreliable I am because of these issues. How can I commit to anything when I might end up having to cancel? How can I run weaving classes when I’m not supposed to lift heavy objects like tables and looms? The answer is: I can’t. Whatever I do next year and beyond will have to be flexible enough to work around these health issues. They’re not going away. They probably never will.

And I’m already used to that. I get things done by working when I can and resting when I can’t. I break big tasks down into short bouts to avoid flare ups, chipping away until they’re done. I vary my position from sitting to standing to walking around to lying down.

What could I do that would accommodate all this? I know what I’d like to do:

  • Build a 16 shaft loom
  • Join a weaving study group
  • Start a rigid heddle loom interest group
  • Write that book on divided reed weaving
  • Do some other crafts, like machine knitting and sewing
  • Paint and sketch

All of this is possible if broken up into small enough sessions and spread over a long time. Well, maybe not the study group if the pace was too fast, but it’s worth a try.

Art classes are set to resume next year and I’m really looking forward to them. I miss the people as much as painting, and have really come to appreciate how friendly they all are, how interested in each other’s lives, how willing to listen if one of us needs to get something off our chest. Annie, our teacher, is a sweetheart. I’m wondering if the format of weekly ongoing classes with no set lesson just encouragement, guidance and feedback is the secret to its success.

What if there was a weaving class like that? Gosh, that would be awesome!

Electrifying

On the Thursday of the tail end of four day sore-neck-possible-migraine I decided to try one of the methods Denise had shown us for making a Deflected Doubleweave draft. It involves taking a profile draft for another structure and converting it.

I had immediately thought of Cats Paws & Snail Trails, the only overshot pattern I’ve liked. So I drew that up in Fibreworks.

Then converted it to Deflected Doubleweave:

The double width blocks didn’t look great, so I reduced them to single:

The pattern looked like electrical plugs to me. That suggested a man’s scarf, so I changed the colours to blue and dark grey:

Which makes for a complicated pattern. What if I made the treadling the same as the threading?

Much better! Now what about some more colour?

Oh, this is fun! It’s like the yellowy green is electricity running down the cord to the plug forks. I’ll have to start and finish the yarn for each pair of stripes because of the big gap between them, but that’s not too much trouble. Of course, I can only guess how much fulling the fabric will change the pattern, but I decided to call this one “Electricty” anyway.

I’d like to weave this straight away, of course, but I’ve decided to return to the dishcloths project. I want to tackle that project before I forget what I was doing with it.