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?

Learning, Teaching and Fixing

A few weekends ago I started the four shaft weaving certificate course I signed up for. The first class was both fun and interesting. Though I know most of what was covered I also learned several new things – and got an answer for something that has puzzled me for some time.

Once at home I finished warping my loom and got weaving, finishing most of the exercises and leaving a few for the next class, as requested. I also typed up my notes and sourced articles and books that covered the topic (twills). I’m not entirely sure how to approach these notes. Do I just type up what I copied down from the board in class? Do I add more to that, based on the articles and books I found? Do I comment on what happened when I wove the sample? It’s been decades since I did anything resembling notes for a course, and even then the classes and subjects I studied required very little in the way of written work.

The student next to me was pretty new at weaving, having only done the Introduction to Weaving course prior to this one. I offered to tutor her if she needed it, and she came over yesterday for guidance on warping up her loom. She also brought an old Dyer and Phillips loom she had been given. Paul replaced some missing and rotten pieces of wood and I re-stringed the shaft-to-lever mechanism. It should have been useable at that point, but I found the shafts kept getting caught on each other. A closer look revealed that the shafts weren’t the original ones. They were aluminium rather than steel, and while the design was clever they were 1 1/2 times the thickness with protruding bolts – the source of the problem. So Paul and I brainstormed the problem and he decided to get larger screws, cut a thread into the holes and countersink the screw heads so nothing would protrude.

In the meantime I cleaned and oiled the loom. It had a warp on it that had been separated with newspaper – nowhere near thick enough for the job. We had to remove the shafts to fix them, which meant removing the warp. When I smoothed out the newspaper much amusement was gained. And I didn’t feel bad about cutting up and tossing a dusty, nearly 40-year old warp into the compost!

Five Years

That’s how long we have lived in this house. I still love it, though the garden is waaaay more work than I need. I’d be very sad if I had to move out – and Paul would certainly have a lot of trouble downsizing.

I wouldn’t have thought much would change in five years, other than the renovations we’d planned. We’ve both discovered new interests since we moved here. My back has deteriorated and the frozen shoulder I had for the first half of the year (nearly healed) made me realise I need to store my yarn somewhere lower than the top shelves of a wardrobe. And the way we use the house has changed.

When we first inspected it house, the idea of me using the entertainment room as my studio was considered, but it was such a great space for gatherings ite became known as the Party House. Over the last couple of years, however, our main circle of friends has fragmented due to various reasons and I started to find all the partying exhausting. We’ve used the entertainment room less and less and I began considering the studio idea again. The problem is where to put the sofas. And bar. And guests, the rare times we have them.

Last Sunday the solution hit me: I’ve been looking at the wrong room! The guest room also isn’t used much any more. One of the smaller bedrooms, it has a sofa bed for people staying over and a tv with dvd player for the children of visitors. It also stores bed linen and party costumes, and my Passap knitting machine. And the clothes airer.

So I did a mental reshuffle. Where could the sofa bed and chest of drawers go? The entertainment room would work just as well for overnight visitors. Linen? Cull and move to the entertainment room too, and make space for it by culling party supplies we no longer use. Costumes? Cull and move what we keep into our wardrobe. That leaves some shelving that came from my workroom at the last house. The tubs I keep my yarn in were bought to fit it, so that solves the yarn storage accessibility problem.

I ran the idea past Paul. He saw no problems with it. So we got stuck in, culling and moving things. And then, as if making space finally made it happen: I bought a floor loom.

But that’s another story.

Acceptance & Adaption

When you’re young you feel invincible. You look at people older and frailer than you and think ‘that won’t be me’ and believe that you’ll eat healthier, exercise, keep mentally active, and get things checked out by the doctor before they become serious. You assume medical technology will improve well enough that anything that does become a problem can be dealt with, and between it and your determination you will turn into one of those older people who is fit and sharp-witted and celebrating their 100th birthday by running a marathon.

The truth is, little of this is in our control, and what is isn’t as easy to control as we thought (like not having that cupcake or cocktail, or going to the gym). I’ve eaten pretty healthy most of my life, but information on what’s healthy has changed dramatically in that time. I’ve exercised moderately when I could, but half the time it led to some sort of overuse injury. Medical technology prevented me going blind, but drove it home that such interventions always come with compromises. I’ve found the medical profession often hasn’t got a clue simply because the human body is a mystery.

What I learned during my middle age is that there is a point where acceptance makes a great deal more sense than fighting on. Acceptance is different to giving up. Acceptance is acknowledging reality and working within it. Or as Kurt Fearnley said in a recent episode of “Who Do You Think You Are”: you don’t cure disability, you adapt to it.

I’ve had the luck and privilege of being able to work hard at something I love and be rewarded for it. There’s been a physical price but I don’t regret that. I accept it. Just as now I’m having to accept the consequences – that the career I love will come to an end earlier than I anticipated.

Fortunately, my career isn’t the only source of creative fulfilment in my life. That’s the advantage of being a creative fidget.

For while now I’ve thought hard about what I’d do if I had to quit writing. Friends have suggested I teach art, but I don’t feel I have a broad enough experience or qualification in it. I considered teaching writing, which I’ve done before, but it involves too much computer time. That left weaving, which appeals because I think I could make a greater impact. There’s no shortage of people writing and doing art in the world, so knowledge of either is not in danger of being lost.

So I’ve signed up for a year long 4 shaft weaving course, starting in August. Just one Sunday a month plus homework. If that goes well I’ll do the 8 shaft course the following year.

I’m also exploring the idea of teaching rigid heddle weaving, both beginner classes designed to introduce people to weaving, and more advanced classes to show how versatile those looms can be.

Prep for both means weaving off the projects on my looms. My Katie loom still has the warp on it from Kay’s summer and winter class, so I’ll be weaving the napkins I’d planned to do before I ran out of time. The knitters loom has a honeycomb scarf on it. The floor loom has the clasped weft runner on it, which is slow weaving – but that’s okay as I shouldn’t need that loom free for the course or classes.

I have a few months to prepare for the course and I’m feeling excited about it. I’m ready to transition into a new phase of my life, and for once I’m feeling good about that.

Vale Kay Faulkner

The relationship between a student and a teacher is usually fleeting. Sometimes it transforms into an ongoing bond between novice and mentor. I’ve only experienced the latter once in my life. My painting teacher, Carol, was as much a life coach as an art mentor. In the last three years, I felt like a similar link might be beginning between myself and a wonderful weaver named Kay Faulkner.

I had plans to fly up to her studio once my current work commitments were done, and do a workshop. Every time I learned from her I made huge leaps of comprehension. We also planned for me to try out the floor loom models she thought might suit, and perhaps I’d order one from a loom maker she knew. I was also going to offer to help her update her website, to make it more mobile/tablet friendly. We’d drink wine and eat chocolate and talk about living a creative life.

I was really looking forward to it.

Last week I learned that she was in hospital, in a coma. A few days later came the news I was fearing: she had passed away.

It affected me more than I expected. After all, I’d only known her for three sets of about five days, on top of a few email conversations. I don’t make new friends that quickly these days. But there was a feeling that here was someone who ‘got’ me on a certain level, and perhaps I had a bit of the same in return. And, well, she was a really nice person.

So after feeling a bit lost for a few days, I worked my way through lamenting missed opportunities to being grateful for the ones I’d been able to take, from worrying that so much of her knowledge would be lost to wondering if I could help spread and preserve it. The undeniable truth is, I could never, at my age with my physical limitations, catch up with such an accomplished weaver. But I can, in my own small way, introduce more people to weaving – and maybe a young student will go on to make a career out of it and become as knowledgeable as Kay was.

So I returned to an idea I had several months ago, to teach rigid heddle weaving. I’ve been making notes and considering buying another, different model to the one I own. As for getting an eight+ shaft floor loom, it’s tempting to think the fates don’t want me heading in that direction yet, but Kay would have wanted me to continue learning, so I’ll just have to keep looking for one.