Before, Now, Later

I know how it looks. All this art and no craft. But you’ll have to trust me – craft IS happening. It’s just not being finished.

I’m still weaving the tea towels on the Lotas. When I tried finishing the Theo Morman inlay project that had been on the rigid heddle loom I struggled with the sticky warp for a bit before deciding the inspiration was gone. The fine warp came off and I’m now weaving a plain white scarf from the ground warp.

Most of my weaving has been class samplers, and I’m not going to post about those again until nearer the end of the course. Which I’m starting to look forward to finishing. It’s not that I’m over the weaving and learning, but just a bit tired of doing a course. I’ve been thinking about why, and I reckon it’s partly because I’m tired of uncertainty. Will my health take another dive? Will my parents suddenly need all my attention? Will WW3 start? I have a strange itch to get it done while I still can.

But then, maybe it’s just because I’m really enjoying art at the moment. Life drawing classes have restarted and I tried doing a nude from life in oils the other day and was surprised to find I could do a reasonable painting in the time we had. Aside from a few back issues, my daily art practise is still going strong. It’s amazing me how all these finished pieces are building up. I’ve gone from two portraits plus a handful of pet paintings per year, to potentially 365 small artworks.

Of course, I already know that dedicating an hour or so a day can accumulate to big achievements because that’s how wrote the first draft of my last few books. The question I’m asking myself now is… what else could I tackle in this way?

That’s another reason I’m looking forward to finishing the weaving course. I want to put what I’ve learned, both in weaving and art, into practise, but I have only so much energy to spend, and a good part of it is taken up (sporadically) by classes and weaving samplers. I am, however, looking forward to doing the final year project, which is a finished object woven using one of the techniques we’ve explored.

That might just take the edge off.

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.

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.

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.

Handspun, Handwoven Scarves

Oldest yarns plus handspun plus twill with tabby were the inspirations for these scarves. The draft are Strickler #263 and #265, both using a corkscrew twill threading and tie-up.

The first, #263, was slow to weave and it was easy to make a mistake. It required three shuttles: one for the handspun pattern yarn, one for the thin black tabby binder, and one for stripes of the same black yarn I used for the warp.

It reminds me of the tracks of tyres, or some kind of ancient writing.

#265 was a much faster point twill treadling, using two shuttles: one for the handspun and another for the tabby binder. They pattern looks like dramatic bow ties.

They turned out very well, and I will definitely be more confident in designing weaving projects using handspun now.

Trying Different Hats

Normally, I try not to even think of the ‘C’ word until the beginning of December, unless I know I need to order a present early. This year I’ve put that rule aside for three reasons:

Firstly, I’m sick of ordering online. While I understand and empathise with Aussie Post for the delays, it’s one more thing to worry about. And the delays are only part of the problem with ordering online. Recently some items I ordered hadn’t arrived so I tried contacting the shop, but they didn’t reply to messages left via email, their answering machine, their website’s contact form or their Facebook page. It took a couple of weeks to finally get through on the phone, only to find out the items had always been out of stock and help up by international shipping issues. If I’d known they were out of stock I wouldn’t have ordered the items. Two and a half months later they still haven’t arrived, but the shop is the only one in the country selling them so I really don’t want to cancel my order.

The second reason is I don’t much fancy shopping in person, either. When lockdown ends there’s going to be a rush on shops, and things will sell out, and since we’re supposed to be transitioning to ‘living with Covid’ (which will no doubt mean ‘dying with Covid’ for a number of people) and I doubt the vaccine passport idea is going to go smoothly, I’m intending to stay away from strangers as much as possible.

The third reason is because my solution to the above is to make most of my gifts, and that takes time and planning.

On the up side, I have a very short recipient list. On the down side, it includes two men who aren’t easy to pick something for even when not choosing hand made.

One of the ideas I had for gifts was to sew hats. I found a free bucket hat online and gave it a try. Aside from me misreading the interlining pattern pieces as lining and having to unpick them then cut and sew a new lining, the construction was problem free and it fits perfectly.

The outer fabric is denim and the inner a navy cotton with tiny flowers in red, green, yellow, blue and white. Both came from destashes.

I also have a sunhat pattern I’ve been wanting to try for ages, so I gave that a whirl. The main fabric is a white corduroy printed with green and black parrots from an old, stained dress of Late Lucy’s. The lining is a white cotton bed sheet.

This was a bit of a faff to construct, with lots of stay stitching and a seemingly unnecessary bit of gathering thread to ease the side piece to the top, but there is a nice bit of theatre when you turn what looks like a clump of fabric inside out and it turns into a hat. It fits and I like it.

Still, it’s not really Mum’s style and definitely not Dad’s, so I stuck with the bucket hat.

Mum’s uses some offcuts of fabric from a dress she made years ago and more of the white cotton sheet for the lining, and Dad’s uses the same denim I used on my bucket hat with a lovely soft red cotton plaid for the lining.

All the hats have used destashed or repurposed fabric, so I’m pretty chuffed about that. I’ve offered to make one for Paul, but I’ll have to enlarge the pattern. If I made it with the black denim in the stash it would be easy to tell which hat was his and which was mine, and I have a black and grey plaid shirt that would work for lining. Hmm.

Recovery

Recently I was watching a video in which an artist talked about burnout and I realised she was describing how I’d felt in the last few years toward my work. I’d assumed that back pain was the cause of my lack of enthusiasm – after all, it’s hard to be keen about doing something that hurts – and I hadn’t considered there might be more to it. Acknowledging the burnout felt right, like finding the piece of a puzzle. And because it’s hard to recover from something if you don’t know you have it.

Deciding that this was the year of being flexible and avoiding commitments was a good idea, in retrospect, but it’s been frustrating as well as beneficial. While it’s been less stressful, the break has confirmed that I do need an aim or challenge to work toward. But I needed time to consider what I wanted to do, and what I am capable of now.

Looking back, I’ve always maintained three passions in my life: writing, art and craft. I’ve turned two of them into work, as a designer for four years, a self-employed illustrator and designer for nine, and a writer for twenty…

… and as I typed that last paragraph, I remembered that I was seriously burnt out as an artist by the time I wound up the illustration business. It took time and taking up a new medium (oils) to recover my love for art. Maybe that’s what I’ll need to recover my enthusiasm for writing.

I’m in no hurry to get writing again, though I am feeling like I’ve recovered some interest. Until I do, I have art and craft to call upon for my aims and challenges. Yet at the same time I’ve been wondering how I can avoid spoiling either by turning them into work. Well, ‘work’ and ‘work at’ are entirely different things. Deadlines, clients and money are involved in the first, but aren’t essential for the latter. What matters for the latter is learning, practising and improving. Becoming good at something can be fulfilling in of itself.

I think that’ll be more than enough for me for now.