Distractions

For the weeks leading up to the start of the weaving course I was in a bit of project limbo. The Katie loom was out of bounds, as I needed it for class. I didn’t want to put anything on the floor loom, as there might be a task set in the class to do at home that I’d more easily weave on it. The knitters loom was free now, but I’d been intending to use it to teach a friend weaving so I didn’t want to put something on that yet.

I did a lot of planning of projects on my To-Do List, but you can only do that for so long. I bought some leather conditioner and, with Paul’s help, treated the leather sofas. I baked. I did some mending. I planned out some knitting machine projects. And finally, I knit a scarf out of some colourful i-cord I bought at a destash sale.

And then forgot to take a photo.

Three weeks ago my Dad’s neighbour died, at 87. Last year she decided he should adopt her cat when she died. He agreed so long as it was written in her will – no chance of fights with her relatives over who got the cat. Off they went to a solicitor and it was revealed that her last will had everything going to a cult she had been involved in previously but wasn’t any more, and didn’t want her estate going to now. When it came to choosing a new executor she didn’t know who to choose, so Dad volunteered.

Oh boy, is he regretting that now. So much work. So much stress. When it first happened he was so wound up that I was truly afraid he’d have a heart attack. And the woman’s house… tiny but filled with so much stuff, all mixed in together. Like a fractal, really. Every room, every cupboard, every drawer, every shelf, every box, every bag, every basket filled with the same combination of objects: cards, letters, cat calendars, Christmas decorations, ornaments, jewellery, stationary, craft supplies, crocheted and knitted soft toys, snacks, religious item, table linens like doilies and such, scarves, candles, soaps, money and documents. The only kinds of objects that weren’t mixed together and spread through most parts of the house were her clothes (her wardrobe was surprisingly well-ordered) and cooking utensils (she didn’t cook).

It was like someone had got her old house, picked it up and shaken it vigorously, and tipped it into this one.

She had no children, her niece is sick and her nephew said “just chuck it all in a skip”. That’s the point where Paul and I got sucked into the vortex that is clearing someone’s house. And it’s a good thing we did. Among the mess we’ve found some amazing old things.

Most of the work has been sorting things into categories. I spent half a day with a friend culling and sorting craft supplies, only to find several baskets and boxes of it later. I spend another half of a day sorting Christmas decorations, only to find several baskets and boxes of it later. She had eleven Christmas trees. ELEVEN. I think she’d saved every greeting card and letter and calendar of her entire 87 years – all mixed in with everything else – as it filled two large recycling bins. I never want to see another greeting card, and my dislike of Christmas has deepened into a full-bodied loathing. I’m beginning to shudder when I see yet another cute picture of a cat or a dog, cut from a magazine or calendar or pet food packaging.

And yet… everything about her belongings spoke of a woman who loved life. And people. And animals. She had a zany and colourful fashion sense and was creative and artistic. She was spiritual but not set in her beliefs, as she had items relating to just about every religion that exists and even a book on alien abduction. She lived in the moment. She didn’t own much of worth but she enjoyed what she had. People near and far loved her. There wasn’t a snobby bone in her frail old body. I’d like to have met her more than just the once.

But I am very thankful that Dad has agreed that he won’t become anyone’s executor again!

Sakiori Runner II

After finishing the sakori runner, I had more kimono rag strips left over than I anticipated. So I considered how I could use them up. Placemats? I did the math and found I’d only be able to make four. Another runner? It wouldn’t be as long, and I didn’t have any more of the light blue warp in the centre of the last one. But I knew it would weave up fast, and if my friend didn’t want a third runner, then I could sell it in the Guild shop.

So I wound the warp, dressed the loom and got weaving. I had it woven in two days.

And my friend said “yes, please!” to another runner.

The Sakiori Runner

Among the fabric my friends donated for the Memories Rug was a kimono that I didn’t end up needing. So, of course, I’ve been wondering what to do with it. I found a kimono-to-vest sakiori project in an issue of Handwoven, and decided to rip up the kimono to make it. But in the weeks since I did, it kept bothering me that I really don’t need another vest. What else could I weave? The idea of a table runner appealed. When the 40 Hour Fun Runner came off the loom and proved a bit short, I decided that I’d make another runner out of the kimono fabric and give it to the same friend.

I used up some 8/2 cotton winding the warp, and when that ran out I added a darker blue to the edges.

The weaving was easy – and so much faster than weft-faced clasped weft. Good for podcast listening. And something happened that hasn’t occurred with my floor loom before. I was able to release the spring holding the tension brake from the front, and crank on the warp, without any threads snapping. I still had to stand up, reach over the loom and press the brake back in place afterwards, but it was so good not having to crank from the side of the loom.

I wondered if the runner was going to be a bit plain, but when I took it off the loom I found it looked great. It was 3 metres long pre-washed.

After washing, I finished the ends by sewing on a strip of the kimono’s collar. It shrank a little, down to about 285cm. I have quite a bit of kimono rag left, so I’m thinking of weaving some placemats to match it. Not exactly, as I ran out of the middle colour. But I have a slightly different blue that will do perfectly well.

Section Necklaces

The jewellery making itch has well and truly passed, now. The last few pieces were section necklaces. I’d bought a mini beading mat, which was great for the short sections and bracelets but too small for the longer sections. So I ordered a full size one, and it made designing much easier:

I finished the black one:

I now have three necklaces with interchangeable lower sections. The green one was made by a friend with a few sections made by me. The purple I made out of beads I had and some given to me by another friend. The black one is mostly made from jewellery I bought from an op shop:

That’s enough, I think. I’m keeping them in these old wooden dishes because there’s no room left on my costume jewellery pinboard and the pins don’t hold heavy pieces well:

It’s a Given

Post accessory overhaul, I had lots of repurposing and rehoming to do. Mostly rehoming, but I had put aside a few things to frog, unweave, or refashion. I also kept finding more scarves! All were in the craft room, already awaiting refashioning or frogging.

I didn’t want to add a pile of yarn to my stash. Neither did I want to turn everything into new accessories for me. I was fine with making some to give away, so that’s mostly what I set out to do.

One very long scarf was shortened to make two. A scarf, neckwarmer and two pairs of wristwarmers were frogged. A scarf was unwoven. Out came the circular knitting machines. I turned the neckwarmer and wristwarmer yarns into a beanies to give away:

I bought an extra ball of yarn so I could add pompoms to the ends of this scarf:

And I brought out the Knitters Loom and warped up to weave a honeycomb scarf using handspun from a frogged scarf as the feature yarn:

That left me with a ball of very colourful handspun and a batch of blue speckled alpaca to repurpose.

The blue speckled yarn has already been knit on the circular machines several times, and is beginning to feel a bit worse for wear. Though I love the yarn, I’ve just not loved anything I’ve made from it so far. Time to try weaving it, I think.

Creative Fidgeting Consciously

So my thoughts about the sustainability of making had me opening my visual journal and exploring the “eco-ness” of four of my hobbies: craft, art, cooking and gardening.

Gardening was the least worrying, as I like to repurpose things, grow food, buy organic weed killer (in bulk to reduce packaging) and put plastic pots in the recycling. I’d already decided to switch from plastic to cane or fabric carriers for weeds. I think I’m doing okay there.

Cooking produces a lot of packaging, but I’m already reducing that as much as possible and making my own nut butter, crackers and other things you can’t easily buy without non-recyclable packaging.

Craft has some issues – mainly the use of toxic dyes and inks – but I probably buy second hand materials and repurpose things as much as, if not more than, new. In fact, reusing, repurposing and refashioning is pretty much a hobby in itself. Even my mosaics have mostly been about fixing or repurposing something.

Art is… actually quite problematic. Natural pigment isn’t always better than synthetic – cadmium is carcinogenic, for example – but (I think) synthetic comes from petrochemicals. Stretched canvasses are so cheap these days I wonder if, like cheap clothes, they’re made by underpaid workers, I hate to think where the wood comes from as most cheap wood is stripped from old growth rainforests, and I have no idea what the fabric is made of (probably plastic – and the surface coating repels watery paint, so it isn’t gesso). Then there’s waste. I’ve alway struggled to decide what to do with artwork that doesn’t turn out well. Doing something frequently enough to get good at it can leave you with lot of unwanted work headed for landfill.

Thinking about this, I realised that working on paper more might be better, as it can be recycled. Oils are still better than acrylic, since I work with a spatula mostly and wipe the excess on rags. When I do use brushes I let the turps I wash them in sit until the paint particles settle, then tip off and reuse the turps. I keep old brushes for rough work, then stirrers. In the past I’ve taken the canvas off unwanted paintings and sewn it into bags, then recovered the frame with new cotton or linen canvas, which makes stretched canvasses more reusable than canvas boards. However, making my own canvas boards may eliminate the possibility I’m using wood stripped from rainforests or plastic fabric. I even thought about weaving my own canvas fabric, but it would be slow and occupy the loom when I want to weave other projects.

After my brainstorming session, I went out into the studio and considered the art supplies I have. I realised it will take quite a while before I need anything new. So there’s not a lot I can do to make my art practise more sustainable right now. I’ll keep these ideas in mind for when I do run out of materials, and reach for paper based art methods over canvas more often.

Thinking Time

So it turns out I have tennis elbow as well as a return of RSI. The term ‘tennis elbow’ annoys me somewhat, since it makes it sound like I developed it because of a recreational activity, not work. I got to thinking, after a friend suggested I come up with better names, that I would rename my maladies more accurately. So I have Writer’s Wrist, Editor’s Elbow and Novelist’s Neck.

Or maybe that should be Weaver’s Wrist. Hmm.

Resting my hand and arm meant finding occupation that didn’t use it. I turned it into planning time. Getting out my entire stash, I plonked it on the office floor. Then I printed a pile of project sheets. Then I went through the ‘ideas’ section of my weaving folder, my stash spreadsheet, visual journal, notebook on my phone and the Craft To-Do list on this site, and wrote a list of projects, ideas and weaving structures I wanted to try.

A big mix and match session followed. By the end of the second day, I had twenty project sheets partially filled in and a list of 15 less developed project ideas.

Part of the motive behind this was that I never did get all my stash to fit in the wardrobe after my big craft room cull, and I hoped a reshuffle would fix that (it didn’t, but there’s now only one bag of yarn hanging off a door handle). Another part was a feeling that’s been growing these last few years, as I learned more about issues with ethical clothing and waste in general, that there’s an obvious conflict between constantly making stuff and not filling the world with more trash and toxins.

Both had me determined to use what I have. Also, as I considered each project, I asked myself the same question I do when considering buying clothing: “Do I really need this?”. It was a sobering question, as the answer was pretty much ‘no’ for all of them. So I asked: “Could I gift/sell it?” but that was followed by: “Am I then just filling the world with stuff nobody really needs?”.

I’m a creative person. I’m not going to stop making things. If I gift or sell them, I can’t know if the person who owns them really needs them. Heck, I can’t guarantee if a gift recipient, whether from me or a buyer of my things, will even like them or, if not, pass them on to someone who will not toss them. But I can try to reduce the impact of the making of those things by making sure the materials, tools and methods are as sustainable as possible.

Fortunately I don’t need to change much to do that. Since my interest in fibre arts began when I was broke, I have a long-standing habit of seeking out second hand materials. I prefer natural fibres and, when not second-hand, I go for as locally made as possible. The challenge will be to do this with the fine cotton yarns for weaving, as there’s not a lot of choice new and I’ve rarely seen them selling second hand. Hmm, time to do some googling…

At Last!

The first half of the rya rug is off the loom:

It’s cushy and weighs more than it looks like it’s going to.

I had to buy even more fabric: four shirts and a pillowcase from an op shop. The rug was still 5cm too short, but I’d had enough. 5cm won’t make much difference to the overall size of the finished rug.

I’ll be finishing the edges after I attach the second half. I wove several rows of 8/2 cotton to fold under and encase the knots. First time I’ve tried that. Will see how it goes.

Trying it on for size:

The second half should go quicker, since I have already torn and cut the strips.

Stretched for Fabric

Here’s the rya rug from underneath the loom, showing what the top will be like:

When I began weaving it I pinned a piece of cotton tape to the start and put a knot at the length I wanted the rugs to be, so I would know where to end the first one, leave a gap and start the next. When I had nearly finished knotting in all the strips of fabric I’d cut, having estimated from the knot on the tape and the rows of knots I’d done already that I should have enough, I found the rug was about 15 cm too short. I wondered if the tape was stretching and the rug was actually longer than the tape was saying, so I decided to loosen the warp and measure what I’d woven so far with a measuring tape.

I discovered it was actually 40 cm too short!

Perhaps the tension of the loom was stretching the warp quite a bit. Perhaps the thick fabric it was creating was pulling in the warp quite a bit as well. Perhaps I didn’t measure the tape properly. Whatever the reason, I needed many more strips. So I tore more from the leftover fabric given to me by my friend, and went on a hunt for more fabric. Two other friends had volunteered some fabric scraps, so I made arrangements to visit and raided their stash.

This is the collection of strips set aside for the second half of the rug. I reckon I’ll have the whole table covered by the time I’ve finished the first half.

To fill in the time before the visits I’d arranged, I went back to working on the mosaics. The tiles I’d got from a friend weren’t the same blue as the ones I needed, but complimented the hue. In my earlier hunt for other ways to finish the mosaic I’d picked out some round glass tiles. They looked a bit like bubbles to me, so I figured I’d put some between where the old and new tiles changed.

I needed more, so I ordered them. The shop also had some 10×10 tiles in blue, so I ordered one of each of the three colours on the odd chance they’d match the one’s I’d run out of. It turned out, they did.

There’s the slightest difference, so I’m still going with the glass ‘bubbles’. But before I could do that, I needed to stick down some tiles on the bird bath. Well, once I got started I kept going.

I’m using a mix of grout, water and glass mosaic additive as glue, which is what we used in the class. It’s frustratingly fast setting, so I have to mix up a tiny bit at a time and the last few tiles I attached usually come off again. I’m hoping that the final grouting and sealing will keep everything in place.

Ts & Jeans

It’s been four and a half months since I downloaded the Stylebook app, and I’m still having fun with it. Mixing and matching clothing in the Looks section has led to some really good outfit combinations, and is a more entertaining distraction than social media and games if I’m filling in time on a train, in a waiting room or car.

Every day I log what I wear on the calendar. It’s not something I want to do forever, just until I’ve worn everything in my wardrobe at least once. I’ve learned that I can’t truly judge whether a garment fits and I really do like it unless I wear it for a day. (Holding it and seeing if it sparks joy just isn’t going to cut it.) Since my initial review while photographing clothes for the app a few more garments have been removed, and some I’d culled have actually made it back out of the rag, pj and gardening clothes boxes and into my wardrobe again.

This has been most true with my t-shirts. T-shirt and jeans have been my default ‘personal uniform’ since my teens. I have a lot of t-shirts as a result. (Though not many pairs of jeans – I’ll get to that next.) I culled quite a few ts when I first photographed them for Stylebook. The remaining ones went into two menus in the app: t-shirts and convention t-shirts. Making myself wear them all revealed something that I kinda knew but was ignoring: I don’t like wearing con t-shirts. It’s not that they’re geeky, or even that some of the designs aren’t great, but it’s not that far from wearing a vender t-shirt and I generally refuse to be a walking billboard. The ones I really don’t like have big, plasticy designs that are hot and icky to have against my chest or back. So all but one con tshirt is heading off to new owners or purposes.

Then there’s jeans. I love jeans… when they fit. But it’s been 20 years since jeans styles fit my body shape. As I’ve worked my way through wearing everything in my wardrobe, I’ve culled the jeans that aren’t comfortable. The hardest has been the ‘straight leg’ jeans I bought a year ago. They are the first somewhat ethical purchase (the elastic fibre content is made from recycled plastic and they’re dyed with indigo) that I’ve regretted. Weirdly, I found them too stretchy. Jeans normally only stretch horizontally, but these stretch vertically as well, making me feel like the ‘mid-rise’ waistband is going to slip off my butt at any moment.

Once they’re gone I’ll have a very old pair of comfy jeans, one black pair for when I’m a bit skinnier than normal, and one blue pair for when I’ve put on a bit of weight. What’s a jean-loving girl to do? Well… nothing. Unless I find a super-comfy second-hand pair, I’m done with jeans. I have cotton, hemp and linen pants in my wardrobe that do just as well.