Start Stop

Everything creative seems to be stop start lately. Or start stop. Trying things. Failing. Trying something else.

I warped up the AKL with my homemade divided heddle reed to weave a deflected doubleweave sampler only to discover what I was going wasn’t quite doubleweave. So I cut it off the loom and made a cowl, then removed that bit from the class sampler and information sheets. I didn’t have enough time to make any other example items for the class, so I put on a warp to demonstrate one of the methods.

Then I went through everything for the class and extracted anything I didn’t think I needed so I could pack it in such a way that I can carry and roll it all from the car to the hall in one go without wrenching my back.

I’ve been slowly turning knitted tubes into possum pouches, and recruited a friend to sew around 60 pouch linings for them that I cut out of old sheets and pillow cases. Though one pouch took only an hour to finish, I’m getting RSI twinges. Then a post appeared on the Facebook group saying that the number of donations were getting out of hand, and though that post disappeared again I’ve switched to making beanies. Latching up dropped stitches to form a ribbed band then cinching the top of a beanie is much easier on my wrists and hands than knitting a garter stitch top and decrease rows for the base of a pouch.

In other news… A few weeks ago I knocked together a still from an old pressure cooker, copper tubing and an electric stove, and extracted lavender oil. My english lavender hedge had produced a huge amount of flowers, and I had to find another way to process it than spending many hours rubbing dried flowers off heads. I got one small brown essential oil jar’s worth of lavender oil over three distilling batches, and nearly 2 litres of lavender water, so I’m pretty chuffed.

Then today I tried distilling geranium oil since I have heaps of geranium plants that need pruning… and got too little oil to extract anything from the hydrosol (oil infused water). Oh well.

I’m hoping to find some fallen gum tree branches and try extracting eucalyptus oil. I don’t want to cut any branches from my trees, and certainly not from anyone else’s so I must wait. Even if I don’t get much oil, the water that boils the leaves in the pressure cooker should be usable as dye.

I spent a few days last week tackling the sewing pile, shortening a skirt, taking the collar off a dress, fixing a carry bag for outdoor furniture mattresses, refashioning a cardigan. Then I started an idea for a convertible dress/top/skirt. I stopped at dinner time, and the next day all my enthusiasm had dried up. So that’s sitting there in the craft room, looking forlorn and abandoned. But it was good to make a dint in the pile while the urge was there.

In the next few weeks I have a workshop to teach, another to attend as a student, and then the first 4 shaft weaving class of the year. It seems like all the looms are occupied. But not quite… I’d warped the Lotus for five tea towels but wove three. I didn’t feel like making more tea towels and we certainly don’t need them, so I looked at the crazy long straight twill sampler I did a couple of years ago and decided to weave one of my favourite drafts from it, and just make a long piece of white cotton fabric. Who knows what it’ll be. I’m just enjoying the no-pressure weaving.

The Osbourne loom? It’s still empty. I have an idea for something to weave on it, after I ask a particular question at the rug weaving workshop I’m doing next week. If the answer is ‘no’, I’ll move on to my next idea… weaving canvas for paintings.

Start. Stop. Start. Trying things might mean failing, but it might also mean success. It might be a little frustrating, but I’m learning stuff in the process.

Black Sand Scarf

The second scarf I’ve woven as an example of using the methods I’m teaching in the summer school workshop is done:

It’s inspired by the black sand beaches I’ve visited while travelling the world.

The yarn is a deep charcoal Filatura Lana Zephir wool that I adopted from a friend’s stash bust. It’s lovely and soft.

I’ve started another sample scarf. I might be overextending myself, but we’ll see. More on that in another post.

All the information sheets for the workshop are ready to be printed. I’m at the point of sitting back and considering whether I’m mad to offer so much in one workshop. There are 25 techniques available to learn, but they’re bunched into six samplers, so there can only ever be a maximum of six methods taught at the same time – and there’s always the possibility that several students will choose the same sampler to do. Also, two of the samplers are more advanced and require particular tools – two heddles or a variable dent reed – and there’s less chance students will have those.

If I was to remove one sampler it’d be the doubleweave one. It’s more of an advanced than intermediate method. But I have it and the info sheets there in case I get a student who has tried everything else and wants to learn to weave with two heddles.

In other news… bushfires. I don’t need to say anything as it has all be said already. Having been a teen living at the foot of the Dandenong Ranges when Ash Wednesday happened fires have made a deep impression on my memory. Then 1997, the Canberra fires, Black Saturday… every time we have a bushfire season it is so much worse. What’s new this time, however, is the vile disinformation. Urgh.

Little wonder, then, that the need to do something hopeful and helpful has spread and grown faster than ever, too. I’ve donated money to a variety of charities but I’m wary of getting too enthused about making anything, having seen how drives to create stuff for people and animals can end up causing more problems than they solve. I’ve joined a Facebook craft group for wildlife pouches, etc. that seems pretty well organised. Over the last two days I’ve cranked out tubes of knitting to turn into possum pouches or beanies, depending on the need. Even as I did, the FB group put up a notice saying to finish what you’ve started but don’t begin making anything new until they had a chance to do a stocktake.

So maybe I’ll be making beanies out of those tubes instead. After the Black Saturday fires there was a call, a few months later, for winter woollies. I wove a big batch of scarves and took them to a drop off centre. It might not be a bad idea to get started early, so I’m ready for when the call comes. If it doesn’t, there are always charities asking for beanies and scarves for the homeless as autumn arrives.

Books Read in 2019

I only managed to read thirteen books last year. Four non-fiction and nine fiction. Since I don’t tend to read much fiction when I’m writing or editing, I was hoping that once I had none of either to do I’d tear through my to-read list. It felt like I was, but the books per month ration didn’t change. Possibly that’s because the last two fiction books I read were quite large.

Entanglement Emma Tarlo
Vardaesia Lynette Noni
City of Lies Sam Hawke
Stormdancer Jay Kristoff
Kinslayer Jay Kristoff
Endsinger Jay Kristoff
The Conscious Closet Elizabeth Cline
Suited Jo Anderton
Guardian Jo Anderton
Roy G. Biv: An Exceedingly Surprising Book about Colour Jude Stewart
The Last Stormlord Glenda Larke
Stormlord Rising Glenda Larke
Minxy Vintage Kelly Doust

I’m hoping to increase the number of books read next year. I need to set a ratio rule for how many to-read list books I must read before I add a new book. Maybe 3:1.

What They Say About Retirement…

I seem to be busier than ever! Mainly with weaving. I have:

Homework for the weaving certificate course.
Preparation for the rigid heddle workshop I’m running at the guild’s Summer School.
Preparation for the rug weaving workshop I’m attending at the guild’s Summer School.
Tea towels to weave for Mum’s Christmas present.

It’s a bit like having a part time job and going to University. Only a bit, though. I don’t think I’d have the energy for full university study right now.

I had to draw up a schedule to reassure myself I could do everything. It all seems doable, thankfully. The hardest part is anything that requires using the computer, which is why I’m not blogging as much as I used to. Writing up notes for the weaving certificate course is manageable, but creating info sheets for the rigid heddle workshop is very computer intensive. Photos must be cropped and adjusted, then added to Word documents and instructions typed up. It’s the most time-consuming part of the process.

I’m kinda surprised at how much I’m enjoying all this. Not that I’m enjoying it, but the degree to which I am. It’s had me consider how much I wasn’t enjoying writing for publication in recent years, and if this change/break was long overdue. And that has me wary about a possible future problem. My work life has been a series of turning hobbies into work, which I always intended to do with writing, not so much with art but I went into illustration with enthusiasm. Is there a danger I’ll ‘spoil’ weaving by making it work, even if I’m not teaching it for money but to spread the knowledge?

The risk is definitely there, but it’s one worth taking, I think. And I remind myself that I did regain an enjoyment of art when I stopped working as an illustrator, mainly by switching to a new medium unsuited to illustration work (oils, as they take too long to dry). I might even rediscover my love of writing after a long enough break from it.

The Youth of Old Age

“Forty is the old age of youth; fifty the youth of old age.” So said Victor Hugo. Well, I’m officially old, in that case. The young end of old, but still old.

Paul and I went to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on my birthday, which was very enjoyable and appropriately fancy for a zero birthday, and involved none of the preparation, clean up or recovery of a party.

The week before I’d discovered a Melbourne vintage clothing shop that sells on consignment, so I took photos of everything and emailed some thumbnail sheets of what I have to the owner. She said it was exactly the sort of stock she sold, so Paul and I took it all in the next day. She took everything except reproduction clothing, a caftan (not popular) and winter-weight clothing as we’re heading toward summer. When I saw she sold costumes, too, I mentioned I had culled some from my wardrobe, and she said she would have liked to see them.

The following Sunday my friend and I had our stall at the local market.

We made a small profit, which went to charity, and decided to do it all again the next month. I took the leftover vintage clothing along with with my culled garments and costumes but sold only one top. That convinced me to put the winter weight vintage clothes and my costumes aside to see if the shop wants them in autumn, and donate my clothes to the local op shop. The next stall will be some vintage scarves, tea towels and brick-a-brack, jewellery and such.

Craft-wise, I’ve been making samplers for a rigid heddle loom weaving workshop I’ll be running at the Guild’s summer school.

And doing my 4-shaft weaving class homework.

And I decided it was well past time to put a first project on the Lotus.

It’s going to be tea towels, using the 16/2 cotton I bought in 2008 only to discover that I didn’t even have half the heddles I needed on my Ashford table loom. The yarn has been sitting in my stash ever since.

And speaking of stash… it is now over 50 kg. Waaaay too many destash markets/Guild bazaar/freebies came my way these last couple of months, which only makes me more determined to GET ALL THE LOOMS WARPED! But then I remind myself that there’s only one weaver here, and I can only use one loom at a time, and I still have a stuffed back that won’t let me weave for hours at a time anyway.

I think there may be a stash review in my near future. And probably a stash cull.

50/50

Next week I’ll be having a zero birthday. I have had mixed feelings about this up until a month or so ago, when I decided to ditch plans to have a party. I simply did not have the time or energy to organise one. Deciding this was a huge relief. Ten years ago I held an amazing party and, to be honest, I don’t think I could top it. Nor could I recover from it as easily. I’m ten years more inclined to hangovers.

Still, there is something about zero birthdays. They require some reflection time. Contemplation of the past, present and future, and all that. This is particularly bittersweet thanks to my perhaps-temporary-perhaps-permanent retirement for health reasons. But not too much worrying about things I can’t control, either. Ironically, the older I get, the less I want to dwell too much on the past. Eyes forward. Seize opportunities. Etc.

The weaving course is proving great for boosting my well-being. I have something to challenge me. Something to look forward to each month or so – which I am doing very much.

I’ve also been culling my clothing. I thought this was just the result of reading Elizabeth Cline’s The Conscious Closet, but to be honest the itch to overhaul my wardrobe has been growing for a while now and buying the book came out of that rather than visa versa. Spring is a good time for a review, as you see what you didn’t wear over the winter and what you’re not excited to wear again in the coming summer. My impending birthday must be an influence as well, as I’m weighing the age-appropriateness of my clothing at the same time as removing what makes me feel old and dowdy.

I still have to find homes for Lucy’s clothing, and in an effort to do so well a friend and I have hired a spot for a stall as the local trash’n’treasure market. I doubt it will all go – maybe not any of it as there are always plenty of $2 fast-fashion cast offs there – but it’s a test to see if we want to try selling at a vintage/retro market. I am not nearly as excited about this as I was back when we were clearing Lucy’s house. I’m half tempted to donate it all to op shops and save myself the time and effort.

Ketchup

Catch up continues. Mostly domestic stuff, but there has been some craft. Let me see…

I finished weaving a chenille scarf. What chenille scarf? Well, I ikat dyed two skeins of chenille at the Kay Plus Fun workshop a year and a half ago, but then couldn’t decide whether it should be warp or weft. Eventually I bought two more undyed skeins. Some weeks ago (Pre-Lucy’s House?) I warped up the Knitters Loom with an undyed skein and started weaving with a dyed one. I was hoping a weft ikat pattern would form, but all I got was a random speckled pattern – and not an attractive one. So I unwove the dyed yarn and wove with the second skein of undyed yarn, figuring I’d dye the finished scarf later. So not a finished project, as such, so no photo yet.

Of course, that leaves me with two ikat dyed skeins to figure out what to do with. But for now, there’s more important things to weave.

Because I agreed to run a rigid heddle workshop at the Guild’s summer school. And being a glutton for punishment, I decided not to pick one weave structure but TEACH THEM ALL! Well, not all of them. I’m putting together a range of samplers and instruction sheets, so students can pick something they haven’t tried before. Most use the same basic warp, and there’ll be a double weave and vari dent version (if I get the samplers and instructions sheets done in time).

Last Saturday was a double destash market day. First up was the Open Drawer, where I bought a ton of mostly 8ply yarn and a sewing box footstool. Next was a CWA destash market where I helped a friend man (woman) her fundraising stall, selling off mostly craft stuff from Lucy’s house for whatever donation people wanted to make. We made a surprising amount to send to the Women’s Property Initiative – crafters are generous! I added to my ton of 8ply yarn there and bought a beautiful kimono.

The third 4 shaft weaving class was held on Sunday. I was tired from the market, but I’m enjoying this course and being around other crafty people so much it wasn’t long before I pepped up. And Project 2 is about colour theory and rosepath – both which I am familiar with. Lots of homework, which I’m amazed to find I’m really pleased about.

Craft is usually pretty slow this time of year thanks to having an acre’s worth of garden to weed and prune and feed and plant and water and harvest and rip out for the compost, but at least I don’t have any large projects lined up. I’d like to get some sewing done. I have both refashioning and sew from scratch summer clothing projects I’d like to do. And to weave something other than course and workshop samplers. Maybe something to sell at the Guild.

And then, of course, there’s preparing for and running a vintage/craft stall my friend and I are holding at our local market at the end of this month.

Right now, though, I’ll be content to just catch up and keep up with the things I’ve already got on my plate.

Catching Up

Things are slowly settling down here. Lucy’s house is nearly empty – the last contents just have to be put out on the nature strip for the hard rubbish collection. I’ve finished the proof of my book and sent it off to the publisher. Project One of the weaving course is done and I’ve warped the Katie ready for Project Two. And a dozen other things have been done, organised or planned for.

I’ve been feeling bone-achingly tired for weeks now. I figured all that work at Lucy’s place was to blame, but I never quite recovered. Then last weekend was very busy and on Monday I was so tired I felt like I was coming down with the flu. I wasn’t, but at the moment no matter how much I sleep and rest I can’t seem to shake the fatigue. I’m a bit worried I’ve triggered another bout of chronic fatigue.

There shouldn’t be much more work to do on the book, so I’m proscribing lots of rest through October. That means no party for my 50th birthday. My heart’s just not in it. I’ve been saying the best birthday present might be to not have to organise or be a peppy hostess at a party.

Of course, I’m not very good at resting. For a start, if I sit around a lot my back gets worse. And Spring has arrived with it’s constant unending weeding. I’ll be involving myself in my parent’s lives much more now, and I have the weaving course and homework to do. And I’ve agreed to run a rigid heddle weaving class at the Guild’s summer school.

Yeah. My first weaving teaching gig. Yikes.

Between now and then I want to weave up five demonstration samplers, and make some instruction sheets to go with them. I’m also going to provide some tools. My idea is to give a small number of students five different choices of sampler to do, so that the intermediate students get to try something within their ability, and the advanced ones have something challenging to try. It would be easier to teach one kind of weaving, but that might restrict the students to only those that haven’t tried that particular kind yet.

Or I might be making too much work for myself, teaching five different techniques at the same time. I’ll just have to wing it and see!

And Also…

I bought a new iPhone 7 so I could give my Dad my old one. To my surprise, Bloglovin’ doesn’t have a version that works with iPhone 7. So I’ve downloaded Feedly. Unfortunately it wants me to upgrade to a pricey paid version in order to follow any blogs I search for, rather than find them via the hashtag search, so there are some blogs I couldn’t put into my feed. Any recs?