Sewing Day… & Before & After

Recently a friend hosted a Stitch’n’bitch at her house, with the stitching being sewing and the bitching being much-missed in-person conversations. I was looking forward to it so much I reorganised the stash the week before and picked out four potential projects to do on the day. One required making a pattern which requires concentration so I figured I should do that beforehand. Then I figured everyone would be wanting to cut their fabric at the start, so I did that too.

A few days later I decided to also cut out the pieces for another project, which was a make-it-up-as-you-go kind of project and needed my full attention. It was a petticoat with a lot of fussy gathering, so I got that part out of the way. Which left only a few seams to do. I figured I only needed three potential projects to do on the day and finished it.

On the day I started with the pre-cut project – a pair of pyjama pants:

Once they were done I cut and sewed a pair of shorts:

The third project was another pair of shorts, but it was evening by then and I decided I’d done enough. I’m not 100% sure I want to make shorts from that fabric anyway.

The next day I tackled another project: two nightdresses in organic cotton knit that I picked up on sale when I was only supposed to be buying press stud tape to fix our doona cover. It was a good discount! And my old nightdresses are developing holes.

The pattern is a simple knit dress design I made years ago for a costume. I’d lengthened and adjusted it for fit, and cut the pieces for one dress, during the week.

When I went to cut the second dress I ran out of fabric. I’d assumed I’d get both fronts and backs across the width. Is it me or do fabrics seem to be narrower these days? I wound up cutting the front in two pieces, divided at the waist, and had to abandon idea of pattern-matching. Thankfully, only Paul and I will ever see these close up.

All in all, I got five projects finished in less than a week, and only one of them counts as a new garment added to my wardrobe (underclothes and nightclothes don’t count). Two were made of fabric from destashes. I’m still feeling inspired but getting a warp on the Lotas and cleaning the house have priority this week.

Books Read in 2021

Hollow Empire Sam Hawke
We Lie With Death Devin Madson
Clariel Garth Nix
Goldenhand Garth Nix
Mask of Mirrors M. A. Carrick
Rivers of London Ben Aaronovitch
The Bone Shard Daughter Andrea Stewart
Moon Over Soho Ben Aaronovitch
Whispers Underground Ben Aaronovitch
The Fabric of Civilization Virginia Postrel
Broken Homes Ben Aaronovitch
Foxglove Summer Ben Aaronovitch
Mystery of a Hansom Cab Fergus Hume
The Hanging Tree Ben Aaronovitch
What Abigail Did That Summer Ben Aaronovitch
Colour Choices Stephen Quiller
The Furthest Station Ben Aaronovitch
Steal Like An Artist (re-read) Austin Kleon
Absolute Sandman Volume One Neil Gaiman
The October Man Ben Aaronovitch
Show Your Work (re-read) Austin Kleon
Absolute Sandman Volume Two Neil Gaiman
Sapiens Yuval Noah Harari
False Value Ben Aaronovitch
Absolute Sandman Volume Three Neil Gaiman
The One Hundred Nina Garcia
Tales from the Folly Ben Aaronovitch
Atlas of the Heart Brené Brown
Keep Going Austin Kleon

29 books! Compared to 15 last year and 13 the year before. The year before I read 20, which was the year I took five months off so proves that when I don’t write I read more.

The best fiction books of the year was The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart, the best non-fiction was The Fabric of Civilization by Virginia Postrel, the best conversation starter was Atlas of the Heart by Brené Brown, and the most motivating book was Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon – which was well worth revisiting.

I’ve given up defeating my to-read ‘pile’ (which fills a small bookcase) and now read whatever catches my eye and keeps me enthralled, though I’m only buying books to complete series. I’ve actually stuck with one author until I’d read everything, which felt like a luxury because I used to only read the first or most loved book or series of an author in order to sampling as many different examples of my field as possible.

I still have enough of a professional interest that I want to try new authors – particularly female Australian authors of fantasy series. It’s exciting to see how far we’ve come in the last 20-30 years.

Projects of 2021

In January I took up the offer of a fresh indigo dyeing workshop with Amanda of @theweaversworkroom which was great fun. Later at home I had a play with indigo that I’d grown.

I ran a pin loom workshop at the Guild. Though I told myself I wouldn’t put in the crazy hours of preparation I did for the rigid heddle loom workshop the year before, I still overdid it. Still, it was an excellent reason to try some ideas I’d had, like tiny squares woven from wire.

Using fabric for a failed all-in-one-piece woven jacket project, I sewed a vest.

In February the sewing continued, resulting in two tops made of woven fabric.

And a skirt to jumper conversion. This became my go-to at home cosy jumper over winter.

I wove the “Owl & the Moustache Scarf” and started the “Wiggle Scarf”, both using drafts I designed after the Denise Kovnat Echo and Jin and Deflected Doubleweave workshops the year before.

In March I converted an ugly old 80s coat into the Flying Fox Coat.

In April I made a pattern from a corduroy shirt I love, and sewed a new one. And a chemise to go with a costume for a Regency Picnic.

I also returned to weaving rag rugs, making two twill flannelette ones and a t-shirt one to use up the warp.

Jeanette at the Guild ran a blended drafts workshop that was fun and a good workout for the brain.

June had me taking two pink flannelette rag rugs off the floor loom and another t-shirt one.

And a clasped warp scarf from the AKL.

Then I sewed a series of skivvies, long-sleeved tops and leggings. And another corduroy shirt.

The sewing continued into July. More leggings, more tops, and a jacket made from an old skirt and jumper.

At the end of July I started the Certificate of 8-shaft Weaving at the Guild, just in time for the long lockdown to begin. I also wove a shadow weave kit.

And finished lengthening a vest.

September saw me finish making two indigo space-dyed chenille scarves and a cowl.

In August I bought a new sewing machine, an overlocker and a coverstitch machine, so in September more garments were made.

Some slubby cotton was woven to reduce the stash.

I also did a seven day sketching challenge, and decided to start a daily art project in which I make art every day for a year, to a theme that changes each month.

In October I wove a pinwheel scarf.

The first daily art challenge was ‘flowers’, painted mostly in watercolour but with a bit of gouache.

Since online shopping was unreliable and the post very slow, I decided to make as many Christmas presents as possible. I sewed some sunhats for my parents.

Inspired by a ‘weaving with handspun’ Zoom meeting with the Guild, I wove two twill scarves.

November’s daily painting theme was ‘toys in gouache’. This was much more time-consuming than the flowers, but I was making much more ‘finished’ pieces that could be sold one day. I haven’t painted in gouache much before and it’s now one of my favourite mediums.

By December I was having health problems including pain and weakness in my left leg. I was only able to weave one of the sets of tea towels I intended to make as gifts.

But the daily art theme of ‘hand and feet in pencil’ was much faster and could be done at night while watching tv.

(Sorry about the terrible photo!)

Between Christmas and New Year not much craft was done but I made a warping mill and yarn stand.

Overall, it was a year that began low and ended high both in mood and levels of stress. That kind of balances out.

Though restrictions had eased, I began the year feeling depressed. Eventually I decided that teaching weaving didn’t suit me – at least not as a regular thing. The summer school workshops I’d done were good but too exhausting and, weirdly, put me off the kind of weaving I taught for several months. Occasional one on one lessons would be fine, I think.

So it was with a different intent that I began the 8-shaft course. The pursuit of knowledge was now for my own benefit only. Meanwhile, the long lockdown brought art classes to an end, and questioning why I didn’t paint at home led to the daily art project and the realisation that art would suit me as a regular thing – so long as I didn’t turn it into work.

Then at the end of the year I learned I have a rare condition that can be quite crippling and might explain the neck pain flare ups that sometimes come out of nowhere and forced me to retire. It made me consider a future in which what I can and can’t do may be very limited at times, and how I might change my surroundings and expectations to allow for that.

Despite this, I am ending 2021 feeling happier than I began it. I am ready to let the past go, and the future no longer seems lacking in purpose. There will be some tidying up and simplifying to be done in 2022, but there’s no hurry. I can only do things at a pace that my body can cope with, and it’s still impossible to predict how Covid will affect everything anyway.

What I do know is, whatever happens, good or bad, there’ll be art and craft in my life in 2022.

Unwind

A couple of dowels sticking vertically from a wooden base. That’s what I’ve been using to hold both cones and reels of yarn when winding warps or bobbins. Even though the dowels weren’t straight and sometime fell out, it did the trick. But as I was weaving the pinwheel towels, I noticed how the yarn wound up with quite a twist to it. Reels of yarn ought to sit horizontally when unwound, while yarn from cones needs to come off vertically.

Since I was doing a bit of carpentry anyway, making the warping mill, I got to thinking about making a new yarn stand. The usual lazy kate design came to mind first, then converting one of the boxes the local specialty wine store sell. But the prospect of transporting it to a workshop made me realise it needed to be light, multi-purpose and collapsable.

Immediately I knew all I needed was two pieces each of dowel and timber. For cones it could be used like this:

For reels it can be used like this:

Or this:

And then be broken down like this for travel.

Sometimes the simplest solutions are the most satisfying.

New

At some point we’re going to wind a warp using a warping mill in class. I haven’t used one before, though I’ve watched demonstrations. The Guild has only a small number of these, and I find I get quite overwhelmed and mistake-prone at in-person classes, so I considered making my own. After doing a bit of research, I bought a horizontal folding warping mill plan and knocked one up with a bit of help from Paul (because the big saw makes me nervous, and his system for storing tools is rather, um, personal to him).

I made one tweak – using cord instead of wooden braces at the base, inspired by my late Pa’s clothes airer. It’s much faster to just spread the legs until the cord is taught than to lift up each side, line up the holes of the wooden brace with the dowels and ram it on. And, of course, when you’re done you just lift it and let the legs swing together.

It had also occurred to me that if I sell my sectional warping equipment and make a folding warping mill I’d free up some space in my rather cluttered loom room. Having a warping mill means I won’t need my warping board, though I’ll keep it in case I need a more portable option. I’m thinking of selling my floor inkle loom too, as I’ve had it for a few years and haven’t used it once.

The urge – and need – to declutter and simplify always comes when I’ve had health issues, but there’s also the approaching start of a new year that’s driving thoughts of needs, wants and hopes for the near future. Last year I decided my mottos for 2021 were “be flexible” and “make no commitments. This year I keep returning to a great quote from Kieth Richards:

“I ain’t old, I’m evolving”.

So I’m thinking “evolve and simplify” is my motto for 2022.

Happy New Year! Here’s hoping it’s less trying than 2021.

Certificate of 8-Shaft Weaving: First Half

Twills
Having used Fiberworks a bit in the gap between the 4 and 8 shaft workshops, I found myself creating the drafts for each of the tie-ups I tried. Later this would lead to me trying out tie-ups and treadlings before weaving when I felt there were too many options to explore in the warp we had.

Waffle weave
I had a bought of fatigue around this time and so wove only the one small section before moving on to the next subject. But I had some warp left at the end of the Brocade sampler and had regained some energy, so I wove another, more experimental waffle weave sampler.

Brocade
I worked out a way to easily design these in Excel, and while that was fun, I got my wired crossed on yarns suitable for the design and woven them all in cotton instead of wool. This was fine until I had multiple colours on the same row, as the cotton wouldn’t squish down and the designs elongated.

Damask
After Brocade, Damask seemed really fast! I’d done the Colour-and-Weave sampler at this point, for which I’d used Fiberworks to try out my ideas first because I had a limited amount of warp. I did the same with Damask, except for the pick-up sampler, which I designed in Excel.

Colour-and-Weave
The reason I did this sampler before the Damask one was because it was intended to be done on the floor looms in the Guild. But since I had the same brand of floor loom, and floor looms weren’t new to me, I offered to do my sampler at home so there was one less students seeking time on the Guild looms.

I added another metre and a half to the warp and wove a pinwheel scarf when the sampler was done.

Summer and Winter
By now I was really confident with Fiberworks, and came up with a couple more designs than what I wound up weaving. Using the program isn’t part of the course but it’s been a great opportunity to get more familiar with it.

The next subject is Doubleweave, which is one of my favourites. I need to have the warp on the loom by the end of January. We can start weaving if we want to. I’m looking forward to it!

Pink Pinwheels

I finished the first tea towels gift 45 minutes before the recipient arrived on Christmas eve. It didn’t feel like cutting it close. It felt like an unexpected win, because I’d already said I probably wouldn’t get them done in time. But I finally started feeling better, and figured I’d give finishing them a try.

Here they are on the loom:

Here’s a close up:

And some stylin’ with meringues Paul made that happened to be in the same colour:

The second set of gift tea towels will have to wait until I can get more yarn. I have an old reel of the right colour, but I’ve decided I’m not going to risk using old yarn in a gift.

Correction. Redirection.

So it’s not Sacroiliac joint inflammation. The MRI found no indication of it. However, it found two large Tarlov cysts and one small one, with the latter squished into the channel where nerves for the right leg pass through the sacrum.

I’ve had these appear in MRIs before – one six years ago on the right side of my pelvis that wasn’t in a bad place and is now gone, and more recently at least one in my neck. Where the new ones are positioned does explain the pain and other symptoms. If they are the cause, then I have Symptomatic Tarlov Cyst Disease, which sucks because it’s rare and very hard to treat.

I’d rather have bursitis or SIJ. STCD is not well understood and because asymptomatic cysts are fairly common, it’s often dismissed. I thought I’d had a big enough serve of ‘debilitating’, ‘unrecognised’ and ‘no cure’ back when I had chronic fatigue syndrome twenty years ago.

But I did mostly recover from CFS, and the cyst I had six years ago was bigger and is now gone, so these might eventually resolve too. Hopefully without causing permanent nerve damage and bone degeneration…

Anyway…

I haven’t had much I can post about weaving lately, but it’s not for lack of weaving. In fact, I was overwhelmed with weaving for a while there. It’s just that half of it is 8-shaft weaving course work and I decided when I started in July that I wouldn’t fill up the blog with samplers. However, I’ve recently found that having post of the 4-shaft course samplers easily accessible online can be very handy, so I’m planning to do an overview post of the course so far.

The other weaving is gift weaving, and I wasn’t going to risk the recipients would see anything before they received their items. Which was silly, because they know what they’re getting. However, I’m not going to have either gift done in time now. I had a neck flare up yesterday that forced me to sit in an armchair all day. The pelvis and leg pain is a bit better today, so it looks like resting rather than keeping moving is what works for me.

That means leaving the first gift unfinished on the Lotas. The Jane loom is almost wide enough for the second gift, which I could reduce to fit. However, I don’t think I’d get it done in time for the doubleweave sampler. I’m planning to install the supplementary warp beam I bought a year ago for that. I can’t do that sampler on the Katie, and the Katie is too narrow for the gift, so the gifts will have to wait. Fortunately the recipients are kind and understanding people who won’t mind waiting.

Other weaving-related projects are beckoning, too. I’ve bought plans and materials to make a horizontal warping mill, and once the supplementary warp beam is on the Jane I will need to adapt the trolley-bag I made for it.

Adjoining

So the latest addition to my list of joint and soft tissue damage is sacroiliac joint pain. Why? Who knows? As my regular physio said, it’s not like I don’t do a whole lot of stuff to try to prevent and treat these sorts of injuries, I’m just prone to them.

Thankfully, I can weave. The sacroiliac joint pain went from tolerable to bad during a few weeks when I wasn’t weaving on the floor loom so I’m pretty sure of that. I’m back at the floor loom now and the pain has been very slowly improving – not enough to attribute that to the weaving, unfortunately!

I had a day of looking at houses online, thinking that a move to more easily maintained property might be in our near future, but the thought of the effort in moving and renovating to suit our lifestyle was too much to bear, and the money we’d lose in taxes would easily cover the cost of a gardener coming in a couple of times a year plus and some changes to make maintenance easier.

As always, rather than focusing on how much I can’t wait for Christmas to be over I’m thinking about what I want to achieve next year.

Finish the 8-shaft weaving certificate course
Continue the daily art challenge
Try another local art society
Do more art at home
Simplify the garden

Trying another art society is mostly because one of them has a portrait workshop at a good time for me, but it doesn’t hurt to shop around and compare locations and vibe. The facility where I’ve been going his last year is shiny and new, but the centre management did nothing about the blinds that don’t provide full privacy for life drawing models, and I heard they’d made ridiculous demands on artists to keep it pristine. You can’t be that clean with art. Not if you’re doing it right, anyway!

And there’s the small matter of the fact the life drawing models are nearly all white women with big frontal assets. Some variety would be nice.

Still, the people seem nice and it is close to home, which is definitely an asset when you have chronic health problems.

Daily Painting: Toys (Second Half)

Painting toys has been great fun and yet I was SO ready to move on by the end of the month. The trouble was that even though I got faster at painting them, they took at least an hour, often more, and a couple of other things in my life suddenly began to demand more time. The 8-shaft weaving course work suddenly increased – we’ve had long block of up to six weeks between samplers and suddenly that went down to two – and I’ve had some health issues that required tests and appointments. On top of that La Niña has brought so much rain to Melbourne that the weeds have gone nuts (and the vege seeds I planted early rotted in the ground). The sort of health problems I’m having don’t go well with weeding, and I suspect one of them is the direct result of injuring myself while weeding.

But they were a lot of fun to paint.

This spaceship from the Thunderbirds ought to have gone in the last batch, but I didn’t realise Paul hadn’t photographed the last page of that sketchbook.

“Dolly” (I’ve never been much good at naming inanimate objects) was given to me by my Mum along with clothing she hand stitched. I made more clothes over the years, which certainly would have added to my enthusiasm for learning to sew my own clothes eventually.

The martian was among the toys loaned to me by my friend KRin. The scene where we first meet them is my favourite of the first movie.

I met my ex at a D&D group. I only played one other time, so I’m not sure why I bought the dice.

To mix it up a bit… a magnetic office toy. The hardest of all the paintings, though the tiny cereal and spaceman toys were tricky, too.

An old tin toy of Paul’s.

There is something deliciously goofy about KRin’s plastic octopus.

Where’s the cheese, Gromit?

I thought this was a duck, but Paul captioned the file “wooden insect”. It chirrups when you pull it along by the string.

Another movie tie-in.

A very happy dinosaur.

Anyone for tennis?

I was given this bottle of Avon ‘delicate daisies’ perfume for children when I was a child, and I always thought it was peculiar that they packaged it in a skunk named ‘Mr Sniffy’.

These cereal toys were Dad’s, I think. I always thought the mermaid was surprisingly sexy for a child’s toy.

Plastic astronauts use to turn up in the houses of one circle of my friends, like a sneaky calling card.

I thought this chair might be a bit boring as a last picture, but it led to some interesting discoveries. The Integra chair is a bit of an icon in Australia, with an interesting history. My parent bought me one when I was a teen, and I think got the small version as well for Dolly. I knew that the chair was special somehow, which is why I’ve kept and looked after it, but I hadn’t looked into it until now.

After thirty days of gouache paintings, I’ve gained some experience in using the paint and accumulated a bunch of paintings of which a good half are worth framing. For December I was planning to paint food in acrylic paint in an altered book, but realised I wouldn’t have the time in what is often the busiest month of the year. So I switched to drawing hands and feet in pencil. So far it’s going well and I can do them in the evening while half-watching the tv. Yay for multi-tasking!

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