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!

Learning

That’s what this year was supposed to be about, for me and in some ways it was, but not in the way I’d intended. I was meant to continue my weaving education. I was meant to start teaching. I was meant to either work out how to fix my back or how to be retired.

Instead, Covid scuttled my teaching plans and the 8-shaft certificate course was put off until next year – and now it may be put off until mid 2021 if we don’t get more students signing up. My back is worse and I’m even more at a loss as to how to exist sans work or a clear objective.

To be honest, I’m a bit depressed.

I’m sure it’s just temporary. I’m only a bit depressed, and I always get a little down at this time of year. Most of the prospects that usually buoy me – end of year gatherings and things to look forward to in the next year – aren’t happening or might still be cancelled, but I’ll just have to find or organise replacements.

What should I consider doing? Hmm, maybe I should also consider what I shouldn’t be doing.

My back is worse, which may be natural degeneration or not being able to go to pilates classes. I’m doing exercises at home, but they’re clearly not as effective. I need to find a replacement, and I’m considering the one-on-one pilates sessions at my local physio.

I feel like I didn’t ‘people’ very well this year. That may not be true – or maybe it just seems that way because so many interactions were online – but the feeling makes me want to avoid non-friends and Zoom for a while. So if I come up with a challenge or project, it should be one I do on my own.

However, support from friends has been good this year, especially in lockdown, and now restrictions are mostly over I know hanging with them, in small groups, will improve my mood greatly.

The next thing is hard to put in words. I need to temper my obsessive nature. To let go of these notions of being useful or helpful, or making a mark, or saving weaving knowledge or learning for the sake of learning. Of having a Plan. Of being Creative or an Artist or anything, really.

I need to sit still and let things be. I’ve spent so many years with my mind in made up places that to navigate reality 24/7 is strange and taxing. I tend to bury myself in obsessions as a form of looking away, and that isn’t good for my mental health or body. And this year has been unusually emotionally exhausting.

Not that I don’t want to be creative or stop learning. But I must to try to have more control of the former and accept I have little control in the latter. To cruise rather than constantly speed and crash. To trust that the current will take me around obstacles, and learn to swim across rather than against it.

And avoid dangerous waters in the first place.

Time

The pandemic and sprained thumb scuttled my plans for the year, but they also gave me time to think. And doubt. And lose momentum. And lose enthusiasm. And find clarity. And be honest with myself.

By the time it occurred to me that ongoing de Quervains might make repairing looms and doing the loom stocktake at the Guild impossible, I wasn’t as bothered as I thought I would be. As far as I know, only two or three people are aware and appreciative of the work I’ve been doing for the Guild, and I’ve never been bothered by that. But when, early in the year, the role became offical… or not… things got kinda weird.

Was it me? Perhaps the vibe was my imagination and things would have sorted themselves out given the chance. Perhaps my instinct was right and the lockdown was a blessing. I guess I’ll never know. My thumb sprain made it all a moot point anyway. I’m chalking it up as a learning experience – trying something a little out of my comfort zone and confirming that it wasn’t for me.

But that got me wondering about teaching. It, too, is out of my comfort zone. Yet I’ve done it before and enjoyed it, and had great feedback, so I think it’s worth doing again. If I’m giving away time and energy, I need to be sure it’s both wanted, and nobody is going to sign up for a class they don’t want to do!

I’m trying to keep that in mind as I consider the future, and if I still intend to make teaching a regular thing. I’m reminding myself that there’s no hurry. I still have a lot to learn, and I’m having plenty of fun doing that. There’s no deadline. I have plenty of time to work this out.

Unlocked

Post lockdown blues. Re-entry anxiety. I think, perhaps, that I have both. There’s such a buzz about going back to ‘normal’, but normal is, well, normal. Nothing that exciting when it comes down to it. Just normal with added ongoing anxiety.

The anticlimax of that realisation comes with a nagging feeling that maybe my normal is lacking. Hmm, I might be onto something there.

When I consider what I missed most during lockdown, it’s going out for fun: seeing friends and family, visiting museums and galleries, and going second-hand and vintage shopping. Socialising is now possible, but it has an element of anxiety. Mingling with strangers in a museum or gallery, after seeing how selfish and idiotic some can be, would not be anxiety-free. Shopping, too. And I look around the house and think, “We really don’t need more stuff!”.

I got to wondering if there’s something else to go out for. Something I can enjoy with Paul or a friend, but doesn’t put us among crowds. Something to acquire or collect that doesn’t take up much or any space. I thought about photography. Or sketching.

Then I did something I’ve been intending to do for a while now: joined an artist association. Their website suggests they’ve been quite active in lockdown with challenges and Zoom sessions. Unfortunately I’ve missed the last challenge for the year, but there is an online exhibition coming up.

If you want strangers to stay away from you the last thing you should do is paint in public, but there are ways to get out and work undisturbed, like painting in the car or at friend’s houses. Maybe they will have more suggestions. There’s no harm in trying, right?

Washerwoman’s Sprain

That’s what I have. Otherwise known as ‘de Quervain’s tenosynovitis’. Back at the beginning of April I felt something in my left wrist go ‘twang’ when trying to lift the end of a redwood sleeper. It really hurt… then it didn’t. After a few weeks my thumb and wrist began to hurt a little and feel stiff, then I began to notice that an hour of reading on my iPhone made them increasingly sore. Remembering the sleeper incident, and with lockdown eased, I decided to see my physio.

The weeks later things were no better. If anything, they seemed to get worse in the last fortnight, and I began to drop things. So yesterday I had a scan and was relieved to find I hadn’t torn a ligament, it was the sheath around the ligament that was inflamed.

Next week I’ll be seeing a hand therapist, who’ll set out a treatment plan. Most likely it’ll involve rest, maybe a splint, and perhaps a cortisone injection.

Fortunately, we only have two samplers left to do for the certificate course, and both will be done on the same warp. I’ve already wound mine, and am hoping to get it onto the loom while I still have two working, albeit one painful, hands. Because I’m fairly confident that I can weave one-handed, but can’t imagine threading heddles would be easy.

What else I can do mono-handed will remain to be seen.

Pause, then Go!

When I started the weaving course I was worried that I wouldn’t have the energy or focus to last the year. Instead I found a deep hunger for learning. I was energised. I couldn’t wait for the next class. Covid could have ruined everything, but lessons continued in Zoom and that’s had some real benefits.

But outside of the class, I’ve been feeling more and more restless. Having to isolate means abandoning plans to teach rigid heddle weaving. Other activities halted and spraining my thumb has limited what I can do even more. Time seemed to be slowing down even as it felt like the weeks were slipping away.

I am clearly not ready to sit and watch the world go by. I need to set my mind to something. I’ve considered making online video tutorials, or vari dent weaving projects for magazines or a book. The trouble is, I need the expertise of other people for the first, and do a lot of computer work for the second. Now is not the time for either.

Then it occurred to me that I had an opportunity, now, to make this part of my life all about learning. The perfect excuse. As if I needed one, but it’s amazing how indulgent it feels to spend time and money educating yourself.

But I stumbled at the question of ‘how?’. I’ve looked for online weaving classes, but most are beginner level and I’ve already learned the intermediate subjects available. I can go back to teaching myself from books, of course, but acquiring them is proving a challenge. A few that I would love to have are suddenly not available in Australia and are VERY expensive to ship from overseas (and aren’t available as ebooks). The second hand markets in Australia – via eBay, Gumtree and bookstores – appear to have dried up. I have managed to track down a few in overseas stores, and I have two orders making their way here. (One, I learned later, is from a store that has some disturbingly bad reviews but it’s too late now!)

The next question was ‘what?’. Weaving is so broad and diverse that studying it all at once would be impractical, and I prefer to focus on learning one subject at a time anyway. That realisation took the decision out of my hands. Studying a different subject to what I’m learning in classes isn’t ideal, so why not go deeper into the subjects we’re learning?

That’s why I wove samples of doubleweave that were beyond what the class instructions directed us to. And it worked. I was completely absorbed in sampling weaves I’d never tried before and writing up notes for a couple of weeks. So much so that by the end of it I needed a day to just sit and read and let my brain recover a bit.

In a couple of weeks I’ll have a new subject to get my mental teeth into. In the meantime, I’m back at the Lotas. The silk I ordered arrived so I was able to start the fabric for the second top. But more on that later…

Kay and the Universe

Instagram just reminded me that it is a year since Kay died. I’ve never been good at remembering dates, but I knew it was some time in May. I recall having one of the worse bad back days ever, spending the morning semi-conscious in bed waiting for the pain killers to kick in, slowly composing an email to my agent saying I wasn’t sure I’d be able to continue writing as a career, then when I finally managed to get up and download my emails the news arrived.

I recall being seized, afterwards, by the conviction that maybe it was time to head toward being a teacher of weaving instead of a student.

So I signed up for a year long 4-shaft weaving course intending to power on through the 8-shaft one next and get ‘qualified’, such as it is. I got more involved in the guild. I spent months preparing for a rigid heddle workshop for summer school that I hoped I could repeat again throughout this year. I started looking for university textile courses.

And the Covid19 happened.

If I was the sort of person who believed such things, I’d say the universe was steering me away from that grand plan. But then, if I was the sort of person who believed such things, I’d have said Kay’s death and my back issues steered me toward it. Which all confirms to me that the idea that the universe is pushing me anywhere is bullshit. After all, if the universe wanted me to teach weaving it would have ensured Kay hadn’t died so I’d have the chance to absorb all the knowledge she was so enthusiastically and generously sharing.

So what do I want me to do?

Learn – doing the 4-shaft course has reminded me how much fun it is to simply LEARN. It’s been a long time since I felt that.

Teach – I enjoyed the workshop. I enjoy teaching friends. I caught some of Kay’s concern that knowledge was being lost and I want to help preserve it.

Do – I still want to make things. My back issued mean I can’t do it as much as I’d like, and learning and teaching were supposed to fill those gaps.

Adaption and flexibility is how people are surviving these times. So maybe I need to look for different ways to do the above. Go back to teaching myself once the 4 and 8 shaft courses are done. Find ways to teach in person safely, or online. Varying the kinds of making I’m doing to gain more overall output.

When I read through Kay’s blog a year ago, I admired how she had adapted to change. That makes me feel like maybe I can as well. Maybe that’s a lesson she can still teach me, a year since her passing. You just have to find a way.

Forward, Backward

I have a bad habit of trying to predict the future. Bad, because it can make me anxious and depressed despite the fact that, when it comes to the present and past, I’m more of a glass half full kind of person. I suppose that’s because the past and present can’t change, but the future can so there’s potential for disaster.

There have been a lot of posts on Facebook and Instagram predicting wonderful effects from Covid19 and isolation lockdowns, but I am skeptical. The post-Covid consequences could be bad as well as good. So here are some predictions:

Some people will value their relationships more, some relationships will end.

Some people will continue avoiding hugging and kissing, some will resent it if those close to them don’t.

There’ll be a doubling down on the activities that were restricted, good and bad, once lockdown ends. Gambling, drinking, parties, shopping, eating out, etc. will be indulged in as if to make up for lost time.

Op shops and landfill will be overwhelmed as a result of people cleaning out their shed, wardrobe, whatever, while in iso. Feeling virtuous, those people will go out and buy more stuff.

Helping the economy will be used as an excuse for a whole lot of decisions at both the personal and political levels. Some of those decisions will be bad.

Covid won’t be a big leveller in society, and in fact will only make things worse in places afflicted by poverty and inequality. But it may unite some who did not receive support during the lockdown, like casual workers.

The excess of oil will be used to make more crappy polyester clothes and plastic stuff. The incentive to develop technology to turn plastic back into oil for power will dry up.

It won’t take very long for air and water to become polluted again. People will wonder how the opportunity to fix these things was lost, not realising that they only happened because people were forced to do nothing, not that they were forced to do something. Doing nothing doesn’t lead to lasting change.

Stupid people will continue being stupid. Some dangerously so.

But more people will continue to be kind, having experienced the benefits. Community spirit will have taken root in new places, and grown in others.

Some people will discover that growing your own food is harder than they realised, but some will find they have a new passion. With health benefits.

Ditto for cooking.

There’ll be a boom in fad diets to deal with iso kilos. Maybe even a new “Iso Diet” being flogged by some celebrity or influencer.

People will realise that being fit and cooking healthy meals takes up lot of time. Time that many don’t have. Some will continue exercising and eating well, some won’t and have more sympathy for others who don’t have the time.

Most people will return to working in offices. Many of those people will have realised that working from home doesn’t work for them. Some will realise that it does, and alter their career path to suit.

Ditto for kids and schools.

Video conferencing and online learning will experience a dive in popularity once it’s no longer the only link between people, but will have a significant boost overall because people have realised it’s not as hard as it seemed and has significant benefits – in particular being cheaper and faster than travelling in person.

A billionty plague diaries will have been written, but only a tiny percentage will be even vaguely interesting to read as we all experienced this in an unextraordinary way compared to everyone else – but that won’t matter really, because the main benefit was to the writer.

There will be virus spikes and mini shutdowns and hopefully it’ll evolve into just another flu strain that will ‘only’ kill thousands each year. We’ll look back and recount what we were doing when during the Covid19 shutdown, and sigh at a new generation that doesn’t appreciate how how lucky they are to have old folk around telling their stories yet again.