The Art of … Getting Art Done

Lockdowns have meant I’ve been to few art classes in the last two years. In the first lockdowns I barely managed a few simple sketches at home. I’d anticipated a freezing up of creativity because I’d read about going into ‘survival mode’ during stressful times, which I’ve experienced before, so I don’t feel bad about that.

In the past I’ve managed to do some art at home, but always when I had no classes, and as soon as I started going again I stopped. I’ve assumed this meant I had a limited need for art, which classes satisfied. Recently it occurred to me that it might not be that classes fulfil my need for creating art, but that going to classes reduces the incentive to do art at home.

It’s not that classes discourage me, but to set up a workable space and regular habit takes focus, time and dedication, and that doesn’t happen because I don’t need it to.

I’m not going to stop going to classes. Feedback is essential, and hanging out with other artists is inspiring and motivating. What I am going to do is see if I can keep painting at home as well.

When I rearranged my craft room a few months ago to have a permanent sewing area I also examined my painting space critically. Acknowledging that I don’t want to stand to paint, I moved out my floor easel and put a table easel on my work table instead. My art materials cabinet was already beside the table, which completed what is now a cosy painting corner.

I’ve been making paint charts, started on a painting that will be a Christmas present, and done the occasional flower painting there. Some issues still need to be resolved. Lighting, for a start. There’s no good spot in this house for natural light. I’ve requested an easel light for my birthday so hopefully that will solve the problem.

Creating a habit is the next challenge, and for that I need to plan ahead. The art that I’m doing and two little cat portraits waiting in the wings will keep me occupied for a month or two, but I have nothing after that. I might need a bigger objective, like the portrait painting I challenged myself with a decade ago. Something that won’t be stalled by lockdowns and such.

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.

Back on Track

Stepping back from creative projects and getting stuck into chores did what I needed it to. We got a whole lot done around the house, including a big cull of gardening tools after cleaning, oiling and/or sharpening everything so we could give friends a set for their new house. Within two weeks I found myself weaving again and within three I was doing a bit of sewing.

It helps that the 8-shaft certificate course is starting soon. There’s a warp on the Jane, ready to thread for the first sampler. I was a bit worried I wouldn’t feel the same eagerness for this course as I did the last one, after all my soul-searching over where I was going with weaving. The enthusiasm is there but it’s different. The experiences I had in the last year and a half gave me an appreciation for the rarity of learning opportunities. I’m going into it without grand ideas, just the simple joy of discovery.

And a little bit of caution, because while last time I had no work projects to navigate as well, this time I might. Nothing like a writing a book, though.

The computer upheavals did lead to one small bit of creativity. I had to buy a new tablet because the ‘old’ one wasn’t compatible, but it didn’t come with a stylus holder. So Paul 3D printed this for it:

(I glued on the gemstones.)

Slippage

I always thought that the first sign that civilisation was collapsing or WW3 was starting would be that my bank accounts and the internet would stop working. Recently one of my accounts was frozen by the bank and my email stopped working, both within a week of each other.

The account was sorted very efficiently by the bank. The email problem was not so easy. It led to my partner and I upgrading my computer, which didn’t fix the problem and meant most of the software and some of the hardware didn’t work any more. We couldn’t downgrade the computer again, but I have an old computer I retired back in 2018 that still works. We eventually stumbled on a fix for the email. Lots of time and some money spent on not quite getting things back to normal. Such is life with computers.

It had me seriously questioning if having domain names, a website and this blog is worth having to deal with an ISP, but when I thought things over I realised those things haven’t been a problem (yet). It’s always been email. So I’m not closing the blog yet.

Too much time sitting at the computer trying to sort things resulted in a back flare up, but even after it healed everything felt… strange. It was like I’d slipped into an alternative universe, where everything’s familiar but doesn’t work like it should. I also didn’t want to do anything creative. Instead I cooked, cleaned, weeded the garden and generally felt anxious. When I realised it was similar to the initial Covid outbreak funk I worked out I was back in survival mode.

But like that earlier funk, it will pass. There may be a few long gaps between posts because I’ll have no finished projects to blog about, and I’m sure you don’t want to know all about us tidying the garage, or cleaning and sharpening the gardening tools.

Well, if you’re going to have anxiety, you may as well enjoy the benefits of stress-induced cleaning binges,

Fifteen Years of Blogging

A few months back I was flicking through a visual diary and found a page of notes from my tenth blogiversary. It didn’t seem that long ago, but looking at the date I realised that my fifteenth blogiversary wasn’t far away. So I began reading though my entries for the last five years and taking notes for this blog post.

2016

The year started with loom renovations. I fixed up the loom of a friend, Donna, and a Dyer & Phillips loom Paul found in a junk pile in the city. I bought the Osbourne loom and renovated it.

The last of the Sewing/Craft Days happened, after which they fizzled out. I missed them so I started hosting Sweary Stitchers Craft Days with a different group – twice a year. During the lock down we held them on Zoom.

I sewed cheesecloth tops, a 50/50 skirt, and took my first forays into making garments from handwoven cloth. I taught myself how to make braided rugs, bought an electric spinner and on a trip to Norway and Denmark learned how to do nalbinding. I tried bargello (liked) and blackwork (disliked).

At a workshop with Ilka White I learned to warp a loom back to front, which I’ve done ever since.

Then I stayed in Lake Hume with Donna and gave her some weaving lessons. Later that year I gave a friend’s daughter a Zoom Loom and taught her how to use it.

I started using Instagram.

After struggling to buy clothing that wasn’t polyester, I was sucked into the research black hole that is ethical and sustainable fashion and it changed my whole approach to buying and making clothing.

Work and health issues meant that, toward the end of the year, I observed that 2016 was “a little bit shit”, but the one highlight was one of my portraits being long-listed for the Moran Prize.

Looking back, I can see the beginnings of changes that were to come. I was starting to explore weaving more with Ilka’s workshop and sewing garments, and a few attempts at teaching. Writing was really losing it’s appeal, not helped by worsening physical issues.

2017

I started Wednesday Night Art Sessions.

At Summer School I tried basketweaving, which I liked but was a short-lived hobby. Later in the year I did a mosaic course and loved it, and that one stuck for some years.

Weaving projects included red pinwheel tea towels, a green waffleweave baby blanket, a blanket made from 14ply Inca on an extra large pin loom I made, lots of scarves woven from leftover 3 ply wool and projects using thrums, and a krokbragd rug. I also bought a vari dent reed and began experimenting, including having my own narrower heddles laser cut.

I attended my first FibreArts workshop with Kay Faulkner, which was a revelation. Afterwards, with her encouragement, I had the courage to alter my Katie loom and tweak the Osbourne which made them both much better looms.

I’m amused to note that we started a photo album update project, which fizzled. I don’t think we’ve tackled making albums since.

We converted an old organ into a bar, and renovated our laundry.

Travel-wise, we went to Central Australia and thoroughly enjoyed not having the hassles of international travel.

I had cataract surgery, which was a surprise.

The year began with a five month break from writing, during which my back and morale improved enough I was ready to start the next book. I was much more positive, trying new things both social and creative. Perhaps because of that I was all about finishing and using up leftovers by the end of the year.

2018

I gave a friend’s daughter a Sample-It loom and taught her to crochet. The crocheting stuck – she is a natural – but not so much the weaving. Doh!

At Summer School I did the Sewing for Handwovens workshop, which led to me having the courage to make a cape, skirt and jacket from my handwoven cloth. There was more experimenting with the vari dent reed. I wove the honeycomb shawl, stashbuster shawl, fancy log cabin baby blanket, and t-shirt seat pad using another hand made extra large pin loom.

I also wove half of the drafts in chapter 1 of the Strickler book of eight-shaft patterns. Crazy. The highlight of the year was organising the Kay Plus Fun workshop in Lancefield, where we learned woven shibori and made painted warps.

Other crafty adventures included revamping raffia hats, sewing a skirt out of old black denim jeans, a wrap top and jumper on the Bond and projects on circular knitting machines. I started using Stylebook to organise my wardrobe.

Paul’s had a back operation. I got plantar fasciitis again from driving more because he couldn’t. After watching the War on Waste we reduced our single-use plastic consumption.

I decided I was tired of mostly painting background and clothes in portraits and concentrated on just heads of friends, which was surprisingly addictive.

We went to Flinders Island for a friend’s 50th and I hosted the extended family Christmas party using only recycled materials for decorations.

It was a year of stretching myself – of trying new approaches, taking on organisational challenges and responsibilities, and deepening knowledge. I was hopeful and enjoying myself despite the setbacks, though a work issue provided a source of worry and angst toward the end of the year that I could have done without and the return of back issues had me seriously considering retirement.

2019

The year began with a contemplative post. Deadlines and the editing phase of the book were looming and I knew that was going to provide some hurdles. I was starting to accept a few other changes that out of my control. “Don’t expect everything that gave you joy in the past to do so in the future,” I wrote, while asserting that at least I could choose some of the challenges ahead. Or so I thought.

Early on I finished the biggest mosaic project I’d designed – the clock – and a birdbath and house number. The Wednesday Night Art Sessions had dwindled to nothing and Paul wanted his studio space back, so the mosaic tools and materials moved to the laundry, then were put away in the garage and I haven’t done anything since.

I had another short term dive into jewellery-making, inspired by a friend’s section necklace. Later in the year my friend KRin and I made new candles from old. I dyed some t-shirts and a last shibori sampler with leftover indigo from the Kay Plus Fun workshop.

Weaving continued, with two huge projects: the Memories Rya Rug and a long table runner for Fran. Later I wove two sakiori runners and wove tea-towels for Mum for Christmas. I had a fabulous time at another FibreArts workshop with Kay Faulkner and was determined to go to her studio to do another when book obligations were done with.

Then on a day when my back was at it’s worst and I could not see how I could continue writing as a career, I learned that Kay had died. It hit me much harder than I had expected and made me really think about what I wanted to do.

That led to me signing up to the guild’s 4-shaft weaving certificate course. I agreed to teach rigid heddle weaving at Summer School, my first weaving class. I bought a Lotas loom and had it shipped from Western Australia, then later I picked up a Louet Jane loom.

A neighbour and friend of my Dad died, and I spend two weeks helping clean out her house. That led to holding a stall at the local trash’n’treasure market with a friend, getting jewellery and paintings valued, selling clothes through a consignment shop, and doing some unplanned refashions.

I was so exhausted from all this that I had no energy to organise a 50th birthday party but saw Harry Potter and the Cursed Child instead.

Since we had guests stay only once or twice a year, and our friend’s kids were growing up and didn’t need a room to play in, we turned the guest room into the Loom Room. Best decision ever!

2020

After the bushfires I used the circular knitting machine to make possum pouches and wound up with rsi in my right wrist from cranking. An abundance of lavender spurred me to try distilling oils.

At summer school I did the Fun with Rugs workshop with Gerlinde Binning, which was inspiring. I was helping a friend run a craft destash stall at the embroiderer’s guild when I discovered one of the stall holders was trying to sell a big bag of flannelette scraps, so I bought the lot. Cutting rug strips was a simple task that I needed during the first Covid19 lockdown, and then as anxiety levels dropped I was able to start weaving, making a test rug then two huge rainbow rugs.

My rigid heddle workshop went well. I attempted too much, of course, but plans to do a revised version later in the year had to be abandoned. I also agreed to be the guild’s loom caretaker and attempted to get all the looms in good order and a stocktake done, but that was also stalled.

The 4-shaft course continued on Zoom, which proved better than in person. It finished in September and I signed up for the 8-shaft course in 2021.

I sprained my thumb and got De Quervain’s tenosynovitis, which took most of the year to heal.

A friend sold to me a cheap 16 shaft loom which I intend to remake. Soon after a LeClerc Voyager came up for sale. I bought it but it didn’t suit me so I sold it. A lovely lady who wants to make rugs bought the Osbourne.

It was definitely a year for weaving. I wove a deflected doubleweave scarf, linen dishcloths and fabric for summer tops. Later in the year I did two workshops with Denise Kovnat organised by the Australian rep of Complex Weavers, on Echo and Jin and Deflected Doubleweave as Collapse.

What a year! I constantly wonder what it would have been like if I hadn’t retired. That period of anxiety during the first lockdown would have probably affected my ability to concentrate on writing. But otherwise writing it would be a good job to have during lockdowns.

Instead I concentrated on learning about weaving in a way I’ve never had the opportunity to before. However, I ended the year feeling quite down. Why? Well, a few unpleasant encounters and physical health issues dinted my confidence. I won’t go into the details of the former, but they left me feeling so much more appreciative of and wistful for Kay’s generosity and inclusiveness. She was worried that knowledge of weaving was being lost, and inspired me to want to pass on what I knew, but that month of back pain and migraines left me thinking I may be too unreliable, physically, to commit to teaching gigs.

Summary

What a half-decade! It started with the Osbourne loom purchase, and since a floor loom purchase is a serious commitment, I consider it the point I really started pursuing weaving as my main hobby. It was also when my interest in ethical and sustainable fashion began and, boosted by the War on Waste, evolved into a new approach to making and buying things.

My back took a turn for the worse a year or two before, which really impacted my ability to work, but I kept at it, only conceding defeat in 2019. I haven’t completely given up on writing, but I needed a mental break and change of process as much as a physical one.

When the half-decade started I was painting full sized portraits. I had one big success. My enthusiasm waned and I moved to heads only but even before art classes stopped I think my interest in portraits was fading. I need to find a new viewpoint or technique or subject to drive me.

That’s work, art and hobby. What else? Socially, there have been changes that were outside of my control or influence, as the larger circle of friends fragmented due to disagreements. That was stressful, but I’ve adjusted to hanging out with individuals and smaller groups. Which may have been a good adjustment in so far that it wasn’t as big a shift when when lockdowns happened.

Plans for the future? If 2020 taught me anything, it’s to be prepared for plans to be scuttled, so drop anchor and weather the storm. Keep resisting the ageing of the body and mind but don’t put myself under too much pressure or expectation to produce at the rate I did when I was half my current age. I’ve worked really hard and paid a physical price for it, but I’m lucky enough to have benefitted from that work. There’s nothing wrong with slowing down – and enjoying the slowing down and easing of pressure. My slogan for 2021 is “Be Flexible” and that’s how I intend to approach life for now.

Catch Up/Clean Up

I don’t make New Years resolutions, but it is has always been my favourite celebration of the year because I like to look back and consider the good things of the last year as well as look forward in a optimistic way. But of you’d seen me the first week of 2021 you’d have got the impression I had made some resolutions. We’ve been getting stuck into the garden and house chores and clearing out old stuff.

When it comes to the garden, a great deal is simply maintenance that didn’t happen because of my thumb sprain followed by a back flare up and then a slightly niggly right knee I’m not supposed to put my weight on for a while. We have an acre, so that’s a LOT of garden chore backlog. Still, we’re tacking one garden area at a time, aiming to get 99% done. The other 1% is the fun part – like choosing plants and planning to make garden sculptures, which will happen with inspiration strikes.

When it comes to clearing out old stuff, I’ve not targeted anything specific. The main areas I usually cull are clothes and craft and they got clear outs last year. Instead I’ve been noticing at an object and realising I don’t want it, and adding it to the op shop pile.

That got me thinking about wasteful gift-giving. Not the presents you choose carefully for the people you are closest to, but the ones I call Crappy Gifts of Obligation, or their evil cousin: Crappy Festive Themed Gifts of Obligation. The stuff that ends up in the op shop pile.

It’s like a slow disease that’s infected our culture, displacing the stock you actually want to buy in bookshops, haberdashery shops and electronics stores because it’s a way to make an extra quick buck. And it really is, because it runs on guilt. One year you go to the family Christmas party and someone has bought everyone these CGoOs, people feel bad that they didn’t do the same, and the next year everyone is doing it and the CGoO buying has multiplied exponentially.

(When this happened to me a few years ago, I started cooking my famous shortbreads and packing them in jars. Everyone loved them so much I’m kinda stuck baking 300+ shortbreads each year even though the CGoOs seem to have stopped. Except now it’s started on the other side of the family. Just as well I like baking!)

I’ve digressed…

Anyway, hot weather put the brakes on the gardening after six days of hard work, and the general sleepiness of summer has set in, as well as a need to make sure I’m 150% ready for the pin weaving workshop I’m running soon. I may be swapping cleaning up for napping and a little bit of making.

Happy New Year

Or maybe it would be more practical to wish people a “Get By Okay New Year”. I don’t think many people have high expectations of 2021. A vaccine will help, but it isn’t going to be available for a few months in Australia, and then we’ve got quite a way to go before Paul and I can get it. It’ll be a while before we really know how long it will last for, too, and so we’ll still have to be cautious.

I decided a few weeks back that my motto for 2021 was “Be Flexible”. I’ll be resisting making plans too far ahead. In January I want to do two things: prepare and run the pin loom workshop, and get on top of the garden chores (mainly watering, an acre’s worth of weeding and maybe 20 square metres of mulch to spread).

No other weaving goals. I have the moustache sampler on the Jane loom and the three heddle twill on the AKL to work on, but with no particular deadline or urgency.

I’d like to get some sewing done. Last weekend I culled my sewing stash and to-do list. Sewing handwoven fabric projects takes precedence, then there are some refashions and ‘from scratch’ projects. There’s no hurry there, either. It’s not like I need more clothing.

As for the rest of the year, there’s the 8-shaft weaving certificate, which I’ve signed up and paid the deposit for. And some workshop opportunities coming up in the first half of the year. Art classes will resume if the pandemic situation gets back under control, and I want to try some of the local art association’s classes.

Being flexible will not only allow for cancellations and unpredictability due to Covid, but also my parent’s needs, which I suspect are going to grow this year. I’ve even been considering how we would accommodate my Dad, if we looked after him at home. The loom room would become his bedroom, so would I try to fit all my craft stuff in one room or make the entertainment room my studio? Hmm.

A friend asked me what 2020 taught me. I replied that my faith in people at a community level had been restored. Only a small percentage have been selfish and stupid, at least in this country. But my faith in humanity’s ability to stop destroying the planet and therefore itself had been badly broken.

Then a chat with friends yesterday had me feeling more upbeat. Not because we solved anything, but because it reminded me that I’m not the only one trying to do my part. That maybe the far larger percentage of people being selfless and smart will, eventually, make enough difference.

StaSHHHH!

There are a couple of posts I usually compile at the turn of the year. There’s the yearly summary, the list of books I’ve read, and the stash flash. It’s a bit early for any of these, but I’ve just examined my yarn stash so I thought I might do that post now.

The latter was inspired partly by a friend’s efforts at clearing the estate of a crafter. It’s an overwhelming job even though the deceased’s husband is still in the house so it’s not a full clear-out. The woman must have had no financial limit to the money she could spend on her hobbies, and the belief she would live forever. Yesterday I looked through a box of of beads, all of one size, that together would have cost over $500 to buy new. Most of the bags were bulk size and unopened. And that’s just one box of many. I wouldn’t have been surprised to learn the deceased had run a craft shop that closed and she kept the remaining stock, by the sheer scale of what she owned.

It’s had my friend and I thinking about craft and hoarding. I don’t feel bad for the woman for having so much stuff. I hope it brought her joy. But I don’t want to be like her. So my thoughts turned to my stash. Especially to the yarn I picked up at destash sales in the last few years. Most of which is knitting yarn.

Knitting yarn? What was I thinking?

Well, I can answer that too easily. I wanted yarn for my new circular knitting machines. I was also thinking that I could use it on the Bond, or weave with it, and it would be good for teaching rigid heddle weaving. I was thinking that they don’t make yarn like they used to and non-machine washable yarn is getting harder to find. I was thinking that brown may be out of fashion but I like it. I was thinking ‘Oooh! Purty! Soooft!’.

For each and every batch of yarn I bought I could see pictures in my head of what it could become. I still do. It was all entered into my stash spreadsheet, carefully categorised. It all became part of my impossibly long project to-do list.

It’s comforting, though, knowing that if I can’t go out and buy yarn there is enough in my stash to keep me busy. Whenever I thought about it realistically, I had to admit it was unlikely that I’d ever be in that situation. Then this year happened.

But isolation hasn’t validated this reason for having a stash. There was still mail order, even if it was slow unless you paid for express post. Did I use stash instead of buying more yarn? No. I bought more yarn. For workshops. (I have no regrets. I learned so much!)

The other reason I looked at my stash was to consider what to make next. I’m thinking of maybe taking a break from weaving by setting up the Bond and machine knitting a garment or two. Or picking an easy project I can weave when I’m not feeling alert enough for the Echo sampler on the Jane. Rugs. Throws. Scarves. Fast, gratifying weaving that will use up some of the knitting yarns I probably shouldn’t have bought.

What I wound up with was a list of projects I could make, with notes on whether I’d keep or gift the item or learn something from making it. Then I culled the stash based on that, with 2 1/2 kilos of yarn going out. It’s in a giant bag with some of the yarn I culled last time, mid-year, but couldn’t find homes for most of it because of lockdown.

On Not Making Plans for 2021

If this year taught me anything, it’s that there’s no point making plans in a time of crisis. Instead, flexibility and adaptability are needed. Despite this, I had planned for next year to be structured around the 8-shaft certificate of weaving at the Guild. It seemed like the one stable, sure thing. But due to a lack of sign-ups, it will now start mid-year.

That shattered my assumptions about it being a sure thing, and I realised I need to be prepared for it to not go ahead at all, and that maybe I shouldn’t even be thinking in terms of picking any task for any specific length of time. Perhaps I need to shake off the long-held, work-learned habit of taking on a big project and instead aim for a state of continual but flexible occupation.

Of course, whatever I do I will be constrained by my health. Though my thumb is better, the hand therapist said it would always be prone to flare ups so I must be careful. My back is worse. Much worse. In the last month it’s been severe enough to trigger migraines. I’m blaming the closing of the pilates clinic during lockdown. Though I did exercises at home, they were constrained for a long time by the fact I couldn’t put weight or stress on my thumb. I don’t think I can go back to the classes I was doing because it’s going to take a careful restart and slow build to get things back to the way they were. So I’m going to start one-on-one sessions at my physio’s clinic next year.

It frustrates me how unreliable I am because of these issues. How can I commit to anything when I might end up having to cancel? How can I run weaving classes when I’m not supposed to lift heavy objects like tables and looms? The answer is: I can’t. Whatever I do next year and beyond will have to be flexible enough to work around these health issues. They’re not going away. They probably never will.

And I’m already used to that. I get things done by working when I can and resting when I can’t. I break big tasks down into short bouts to avoid flare ups, chipping away until they’re done. I vary my position from sitting to standing to walking around to lying down.

What could I do that would accommodate all this? I know what I’d like to do:

  • Build a 16 shaft loom
  • Join a weaving study group
  • Start a rigid heddle loom interest group
  • Write that book on divided reed weaving
  • Do some other crafts, like machine knitting and sewing
  • Paint and sketch

All of this is possible if broken up into small enough sessions and spread over a long time. Well, maybe not the study group if the pace was too fast, but it’s worth a try.

Art classes are set to resume next year and I’m really looking forward to them. I miss the people as much as painting, and have really come to appreciate how friendly they all are, how interested in each other’s lives, how willing to listen if one of us needs to get something off our chest. Annie, our teacher, is a sweetheart. I’m wondering if the format of weekly ongoing classes with no set lesson just encouragement, guidance and feedback is the secret to its success.

What if there was a weaving class like that? Gosh, that would be awesome!