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 NiƱa 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!

Posted in art

Daily Painting: Toys (First Half)

While the theme for November is toys, I have a few other aims for the month. Having bought a set of artist quality gouache paints, I want to get in some practise with them. Another goal is to up in one place and use the same lighting for all paintings. I was pretty chuffed with the first one.

However, it took me 2 1/2 hours. I can’t spare that much time every day of this month, and while I hope to get faster from practise, I need to choose toys that are simpler to paint. Like this wooden train. I left out the carriages.

While the train was one of Paul’s childhood toys, this Pink Panther was one of mine.

The colour mixing was weird. I’m using a warm spotlight on the toy, while the easel light has a cool ‘daylight’ globe. The coloured card of the background influences the slightly off-white card on the table top. As I’m mixing I’m holding a loaded brush up in front of the colour I’m matching to get as close as possible to the colour I’m seeing, but the result is startling – usually much darker that I expect. Yet it looks fine in the painting.

I have a box of amusements I used to keep on my desk when I worked in an office, including this this keyring sized Etch-a-Sketch

A bath toy.

Very old puzzles. I think they belonged to my Dad, so they might be much older than me.

My teddy bear. I was never one for soft toys, but I have a few favourites.

I had a few matchbox cars as a child. My favourite is this red Mini.

As a teenager I used to charge to solve other kids’ Rubik’s Cubes.

One of my Mum’s toys. The lid of the teapot was lost before she gave this to me, and the stalk of the apple disappeared since then.

A tiny teddy bear made by my friend, KRin.

Slinky! I did the outline and background the night before, because I knew this one would be a challenge.

Lego! Having taken out my small box of Lego, which comes out for visiting children, I decided to see if I could put together all of the sets I had. They were from the mid 70s, with the original larger figures. Paul and I made eight sets, including one minifig set, but from the remaining pieces I reckon there’s a vehicle and house set we can’t identify. Though it’s always possible there was some migration of pieces to and from my box and my brother’s.

KRin’s bean bag Totoro.

Halfway through the month, I’m both having the time of my life and starting to get a little overwhelmed. The latter is more to do with having so many other things demanding attention or sapping my energy. Some of those things are good, like returning to art classes, ongoing 8-shaft course samplers and making Christmas presents. The rest are either too personal or boring to mention here. At the same time, I’ve been exploring ideas to revamp the look of this blog, and what theme, medium and ground I’ll use for December’s daily painting.

Can’t complain I’m not occupied!

Daily Painting Challenge

As the month of October drew to a close, I had a decision to make: do I continue painting flowers for a year, or stop, or do something else? Painting the same subject for a year is strangely appealing, but when I contemplated it I couldn’t help wishing I had chosen another subject. Something I would gain more benefit from, like faces, or just ‘people’.

Not that I didn’t gain anything from painting flowers. They are a subject I’ve felt I’ve never been much good at, so I had a lot to learn from focusing on them. I could learn a lot more, but I can see that there would be a learning curve that was initially steep and exciting, then would taper off to being nearly flat with just occasional little steps up.

Better to have the benefit and fun of the steep learning curve over and over, by tackling a different theme each month. So I considered those other subjects I wished I’d chosen. Faces. Hands and feet. Pets. Birds. Then there were subjects that I wouldn’t want to study for a year, but would have fun with over a shorter time. Cars. Buildings. Food. Toys. To that list I added kitchenalia and accessories (hats, bags, shoes, etc.). I split pets into cats and dogs. That gave me twelve subjects if I included flowers.

So instead of painting or drawing the one subject for a year, I’m going to try to tackle a different one each month.

Each of the subjects is going to require different kinds of materials and levels of preparation. With toys, food, accessories and kitchenalia I can plausibly work entirely from life – which has the extra challenge of requiring me to arrange backdrops and lighting. With cars, cats, dogs, birds, faces and hands I will have to work from reference photos much of the time. Painting in a tiny sketchbook was fun, but I was very ready to work at a bigger size. I also decided to use different mediums and grounds each time, though I could also choose to use a mix for a particular subject.

The practicalities of painting every day are a challenge in themselves. First there’s keeping the time commitment to a workable length. Then there’s ergonomics. One of the reasons I decided not to paint flowers for a year was it had me sitting in awkward, hunched positions way too often and my back was starting to protest.

In fact, the reason this post is a bit late is I had a back flare up that was probably related to spending more time painting. The next post will feature the paintings from the first week of November. With me not posting about Christmas presents I’m making, things may get very art-centric for a while, but hopefully that’ll change in a few weeks.

Posted in art