Non-essentials

I have a book coming out in a month or so, and it’s like contemplating a latter half of life significant birthday – should be exciting, was exciting in the past, but now it makes me feel tired and old and the whole thing seems unimportant compared to everything else going on in the world.

Nevertheless, my publisher wants me to promote it, and that’ll most likely be via video content. They suggested I do a reading. Readings are my least favourite activity, so I suggested a Zoom interview instead.

Isn’t Zoom just great? In the last week and a half I’ve taken part in four Zoom meetings: two social gatherings and two classes. I’ve also introduced Dad to Facetime, which he may be liking just a bit too much. Nah, not really. It’s nice to see him and Mum. And their cat. Funny how all these video links end with cats.

I’m sleeping better. This might have something to do with the repaired gas connection under the floor right beneath our bed. No nasty smells in the middle of the night. We went to turn on the heater and it kept spluttering. I remembered smelling gas near the hatch to underneath the house. Opened it. Out came a big gust of gas smell. Called the plumber. Turns out the pipe to the heater was rather incompetently connected to the main gas line. So bad you could hear the hiss.

Unfortunately, fixing the leak didn’t fix the heater, so the heating installers are coming out to fix the heater later this week. I will be presenting them with the repair bill… after they fix the heater. (Get this: the receptionist said it would take a week and a half before anyone could come out because ‘everyone went to turn their heater on the first time lasts weekend’. So a common problem then? Hmm.)

On the same day, our travel agent let us know that the airline we were supposed to fly to Poland with decided that the flights could be moved to within a year of the booking date, not the departure dates. So we won’t be able to use them to go to the same event next year (assuming the virus is under control by then). They also said if we cancelled we ‘might’ get our money back but it will take three months (and is rumoured to take twelve). So we’re gambling on the cancellation ‘option’, since the latest we could fly elsewhere is January, everywhere in the northern hemisphere will be in winter, and there’s nowhere in the southern hemisphere we want to go that would be anywhere near the same flight value (assuming any destination would be open for visitors by January anyway). I’m hoping to at least get the convention’s money back to them. We may have to write off the rest as a lesson to never buy tickets from THAT airline ever again.

We had wine that day, putting aside our no-alcohol-on-weekdays rule.

Instead of cabin fever I seem to be going into hibernation mode. I don’t want to go out at all. Not even to shop for essentials. Not even to get the molar that’s doesn’t like me biting down on it checked out. Not even to get the flu shot. I really ought to get that flu shot. Maybe tomorrow.

In crafty news, I advertised the Osborne loom on the guild’s Weaving Matters group email list last week, and immediately had two interested potential buyers. The most promising one decided it wasn’t the loom for her – I’ve been there and completely understand. The other needs to sell her current loom first, and hasn’t replied to my email letting her know it was still available. I ought to advertise on the 4 shaft weaving course list next, but my determination to sell it has weakened. There are some aspects of that loom that I really like. The castle shelf. The ease of removing the front beam. The brake that doesn’t slip and maintains really tight tension. If I changed the pedals and lamms to be like those on the Lotas loom, I’d be tempted to keep it.

I’ve told myself I have to weave a rug on the Lotas loom before I make any decisions. I just need to finish the shadow weave jacket. And cut up the rest of the flannelette scraps into strips. And the rug warp still has to arrive from Glenora Weaving & Wool. I’m also reminding myself of what I could do in the space the Osborne is taking up. Maybe set up an easel and paint. Maybe do some machine knitting.

For that to happen, some weaving needs to be done, so I’d better stop rambling and go pick up some shuttles.

Occupation

Until a few days ago I had three occupied looms. The Jane held the m’s and o’s sampler from class, which I’ve now finished. The Katie held a warp for stitched doubleweave linen dishcloths (draft by the much-missed Kay Faulkner) – my first attempt at stitched doubleweave and weaving with linen.

Linen was interesting to weave. I ran a humidifier beside the loom, keeping the yarn supple. There was no sett suggestion with the draft. My distracted brain had decided to sett as if for twill. No idea why! It should have been the wpi, since it’s doubleweave so double the sett for plainweave. But I’m glad I didn’t do that, as the plainweave hems are already tough to beat in. The doubleweave section is a bit loose, but I don’t think it will matter, actually. IIRC the dishcloth Kay showed me was quite loose. It’s all about the texture, for scrubbing.

And the Lotus still has a shadow weave one-piece cotton jacket.

It’s my first attempt at shadow weave, which is not proving to be difficult, and my second project on the loom. What is fiddly is weaving three sections separately without getting too much pull in. There has been some unweaving, accompanied by silent swearing.

The yarn is Bendigo Cotton 8ply, which is a convenient 20 wpi in plain weave which means one thread per slot on a 10dpi reed.

I tried a method of threading the reed I learned in class. Apparently it’s how the Saori weavers thread their reeds. You suspend the reed in a flat position before the castle and push the threads into the slots from above with a special tool. Well, I don’t have the special tool, but I found a small steel ruler worked just as well.

I also tried to resolve another problem. On the Osbourn I used slats from a venetian blink as warp spacers, but I’ve found that on the Lotas these slide down to hang in a group under the back beam as soon as I loosen the warp to advance it.

So far I haven’t found card wide enough for a project this big, so I tried tying a section of slats back together. So far it has worked fairly well. Not perfect, but a big improvement. I’m going to tie more sections together, for when I weave longer warps.

What next? Well, there’s the next class sampler – lace weaves. Classes are now online, via Zoom, which is fun. I’m still cutting flannelette scraps into strips, with the help of an electric rotary cutter, and will likely be doing so for a looooong time, unless I get tired of it and stow everything at the back of the cupboard.

I keep looking at the Osbourn loom and contemplating warping it up for a rug. Over the last few weeks I’ve been thinking that maybe I don’t like having multiple projects going at the same time. There is only one me, and I’ve noticed that something always gets neglected when I have several projects on the go.

Two is nice. One easy and one challenging project. Three means one is forgotten. Maybe this is my self-isolation self-examination realisation. There are (mumble) number of looms here, but there is only one weaver’s worth of time to occupy.

Homebound

Every day, at the moment, is an exercise in gratitude. I’m an introvert, so I’ve always felt immensely lucky that my career and interests allow me to work from home. So staying at home is what I do most of the time anyway.

My income comes from books, which accessible both electronically and via online shopping. The cancelled publicity trip may mean less books are sold that would have been otherwise, but my income won’t be too badly affected. And people may even buy more books than usual, too.

Australia has a good health care system. I’m not in the most at-risk demographic, though my parents definitely are. I’m currently reasonably healthy… well, apart from some bad sinusitis and asthma lately – so I’m reasonably confident that I would be okay if we caught the virus. Same for Paul.

And yet, I am exhausted.

Sleep is either elusive or doesn’t refresh. I worry about family, friends, acquaintances, local business people, the disadvantaged, the disabled, this country, other countries, people in general, and, ultimately, the planet.

A friend reposted an article on Facebook (so, of course, I can’t find it now) about why people who suddenly have lots of time to be creative are finding they lack drive or focus or energy. The reason, if I interpreted it right, was that people are in survival mode. The brain is alert and watchful, and has turned auto-pilot turned off. Everything requires concentration and attention, like getting into a car and needing to think about every step of driving.

It seemed like a good explanation of where my brain is at. The article recommended being kind to yourself and doing simple and repetitive tasks for now. Well, I had already decided to haul a giant bag of flannelette scraps I bought at a destash into the kitchen and start sorting them, and I realised this was the perfect task to tackle.

The scraps were all in bundles.

First I untied them and sorted the scraps into piles based on size. I needed long pieces to weave into rag rugs. The small pieces could be turned into a rya rug, but I’m hesitating to do another as it was a very slow process. The middle size is the ‘maybe’ one and the long pieces should be fine for rag weaving. A sewing friend dropped by with two handmade face masks for me, so I showed her what I was doing and she said she could use the small scraps to make pet beds, so they won’t go to waste.

I sorted the longer pieces into colour families and/or possible combinations for rugs. The bag in front is a normal sized striped bag, and is full to the top of the small scraps.

And now I’ve started cutting the scraps into strips.

All this seems to be having the desired effect, as I’m a bit more relaxed and slept a little better the last two nights. It’s certainly easier on my back than all the gardening I’ve been doing! I feel like I’m getting something done, but it’s not mentally taxing. And I always enjoy designing with colour.

I hope you are all well and coping in this extraordinary moment in history. We are, essentially, in the midst of a global natural disaster, but we are an intelligent species (though it might not seem so sometimes!) and we will not just survive, but hopefully outwit it in the long run.

Plaid & Simple

Over the last several weeks I’ve been sewing. Mending. Making shorts. Making pillow cases for the travel pillow I won’t be taking overseas now we had to cancel the work trip. More mending. And making a skirt.

The skirt, as I mentioned in a previous post, it was meant to be pants, but the pattern I bought for them proved unsuitable. Waist too low and crotch too high. Too much faff to alter it so… skirt.

The fabric came from one of Late Lucy’s dresses. I used a skirt pattern I traced from a favourite a-line skirt as the base, then added as much flare and length as the fabric allowed. Before cutting I’d lined up the yellow and red stripes of the plaid, but after I started sewing I realised the more subtle blue and green stripes didn’t match. So I unpicked and recut and resewed.

Then I stuffed up the invisible pockets on one side and after contemplating only having a pocket on one side so I didn’t have to redo one, decided to put the project aside for a few days. Eventually I did go back with a refreshed sense of patience, fixed the pocket and finished the skirt. I wound up lining it in the black bem silk I’d bought to reline one of Lucy’s old jackets.

There’s something about a long skirt that is particularly appealing. Maybe it’s the swish around the calves as you walk. Maybe it’s the oldy worldy vibe. Maybe it’s more cosy and luxurious somehow, being wrapped up in all that lovely fabric. It has a generosity that is lacking in body-hugging modern clothes. Though fashion does seem to be drifting back toward volume now. Wide legged pants. Oversized jumpers. Non-clingy, unrestricted freedom.

Of course, it’s going to be a while until it’s cold enough to wear it.

Tests & Leftovers

For the last few months, weaving has mostly been about samplers. Samplers from summer school. Samplers from the 4-shaft weaving class. Sampler for my rigid heddle workshop.

I’d like to weaving a thing. It’s been ages since I tackled a new project. So I’ve been on a bit of a finishing drive. I had an 8ply cotton warp on the AKL since my workshop, for a demo that I unwove later. To weave it off I decided to do spot bronson, following the instructions from my class. Lucky nobody got to that in class, because my info sheet turned out to be wrong! It was wrong because there is an omission in the book I based the instruction on: it doesn’t say the heddle should be in the down position when picking up the warp ends for the pattern. I hadn’t noticed when weaving my sampler for the class because what you get looks kind of right. But it isn’t, so if I do another class (unlikely for a while thanks to Covid19) I’ll have to reweave the entire sampler. Still, I did manage to weave off the warp with the correct spot bronson method, and free up that loom.

Next I turned my attention to the Lotus loom. Last year I’d put on enough warp to weave five tea towels, but only got three done in time to sew and gift them for a Christmas present. To keep things interesting, I tried another tie-up – a pattern I’d liked when I made the long Strickler sampler a few years ago. I didn’t know if the fabric would become plain natural coloured tea towels, a table runner or a garment. Eventually it was done, and I decided on tea towels.

That warp was my first on the Lotus. I’ve encountered a few idiosyncrasies of the loom, and resolved most of them, but the one that worries me most was that the tension brake keeps slipping. Maybe only because some of the oil I used on the wood got into the wire groove. Maybe not. The guild has one of these looms, and it has a ratchet and pawl on the back beam in addition to the tension brake. Mine does not.

This could be a big problem as I want to weave rugs. I could keep the Osborne for rug weaving, but I don’t want two floor looms.

Well, the slipping seemed to reduce over time. When the loom was free I decided to take the remaining warp from the rug weaving workshop off the Katie and put it on the Lotus. Then I wove with tshirt rags and then rug weft, beating hard. After a handspan of weaving built up I was satisfied that the Lotus was capable of handling rug weaving, even if it meant occasionally getting up and tightening the warp from the back.

So I’m now free to sell the Osborne. When it’s gone I’ll be able to spread out a little better in the craft room. More room for sewing. Enough space to set up the Bond knitting machine. Freedom to try other crafts.

After all, there’s a reason why this blog is called Creative Fidget.

Certainty of Uncertainty

I was supposed to be going overseas in a few months, on a work trip. It’s all cancelled now thanks to Covid19, which is disappointing but also a relief. Fortunately I should be able to move our flights to get us to and from the same event next year. If not that, then maybe I’ll actually get a holiday out of it. Eventually.

In other news… Recently I agreed to take over the loom caretaker role at the guild. I was doing most of the job already – mending looms and helping with the weaving tools stocktake – so the additional responsibilities are to initiate both, be the point of contact and keep records.

Every time I’ve helped out with the stocktake lots of problems were discussed and solutions thought of but, even with four or five people helping out over two to three hours, we barely got the main tasks done. That’s because so much of what we do at the stocktake is not stocktaking, like loom fixing and assembly, and putting together tool kit bags for each loom.

Because I was going overseas shortly after the stocktake I decided to tackle as much of that work as possible beforehand, but came up against a few road blocks. Now that the trip is cancelled I can take my time. There are looms available for the next class, and plenty spare. And I just heard that interest group meetings are cancelled, so I wonder if classes will be too.

Paul and I are fortunate in that my income doesn’t rely on me leaving the house. The overseas appearance cancellation will affect my income, but not in a big way. I feel for people with jobs that don’t have sick leave, and small businesses that can’t afford to stop for a few weeks.

The other way I feel fortunate is this: as a creative person who likes to read, the prospect of being stuck at home doesn’t feel like a trial, but an opportunity. There’s craft and gardening and some DIY around the house. And tasks I never seem to get around to, like spring cleaning. And a few creative pursuits, like temari balls and welding, that I’ve fancied trying for a while and we have all the tools and materials for. However, I will have to be careful to not trigger my back issues by not being active enough.

What I’m most worried about is my elderly parents catching the virus. They are frail and in the demographic in most danger from it. I’m not sure if it’s better or worse that they still live at home, and aren’t in a nursing home.

All we can do is sit tight, wait and see, and hope for the best.

Am I Crazy?

Recently, a few conversations, both positive and negative, caused me to pause and ask myself the above question in regard to venturing into weaving as more than just a passtime. I began to really think about what I want to do versus what I can do. So I decided to write four lists: ‘what do I want?’ ‘what do I not want?’ ‘what can I do?’ ‘what can’t I do?’.

The overlap between can and want whittled possibilities down to this: teaching beginner and intermediate rigid heddle weaving part time, self employed, to adults, perhaps organising more workshops with advanced weavers, and possibly collaborate with other creative people.

Since I was being all business plannery, I then did a SWOT (strengths/weaknesses/opportunities/threads), which was … enlightening. If I seriously needed to make money I’d probably back away at this point. Fortunately that’s not my primary aim (though my ‘don’t want’ list did include “overcommitting financially”). I will proceed with caution. Bleeding money is undesirable, making a profit would be surprising. I’d settle with breaking even.

Where to go from here? Well, I am in no rush. I want to finish the 4 shaft and 8 shaft weaving classes before I take on too many other commitments. That means I have a year and a half to go before making any big moves. In the meantime I can do some planning and information gathering.

And I’m sure I’ll ask myself the question above, and feel the doubt, again. 25 years ago, when I quit full time work and started a design and illustration business so I could write books, I felt the same. I turned that fear into focus and motivation rather than paralysis and procrastination. That’s a lot easier when you have the energy of youth, but there’s got to be advantages in being older, too. Wisdom? Experience?

Maybe just being not afraid to say ‘no’.

The Long and the Shorts of It

A year ago, when I ran out of fabric while weaving the Memory Rya Rug, a few friends gave me some garments to cut up. Among them was a pair of batik caftans. While batik is great for rag rugs because it’s coloured on both sides, the patterning on these caftans was so lovely I didn’t want to cut them up. I had immediate ideas of turning them into dresses, and put them aside.

In among Late Lucy’s clothing was a similar caftan, newer and printed with more colours, but in a pattern I didn’t like much. Leah at the vintage clothing store told me caftans don’t sell, so I put it aside to use for rag rugs.

Last week I experienced a sewing jape. I’d moved most of my weaving stuff from the Craft Room to the Loom Room and packed up the Katie Loom because I needed space on the Craft Room table to mend a few garments. With the weaving stuff out of the way I had space in the wardrobe to hang clothing I wanted to refashion. I’d also been to the vintage store and settled my account, leaving most of the unsold garments with Leah, but taking home four pieces of clothing from the 80s that I felt oddly attached to, and wanted to refashion.

I did the mending, then moved on to a refashion. That led to a review of all my sewing projects, which led to me looking at those old caftans while my favourite shorts pattern happened to be sitting at the side, waving its papery hands and saying ‘pick me!’.

Who am I to argue with a sewing pattern? And I could definitely do with some cheerful new shorts. So I started unpicking the seams of Lucy’s caftan. That’s when I discovered that it was much brighter and redder on the inside – definitely more me than the peachy colour on the right side.

Laying out the pattern took care, as so I didn’t wind up with an unfortunate shape in an unfortunate place. I managed it with Lucy’s caftan, which became this:

And one of the old caftans, which was also brighter on the inside, became these:

I also, with Paul’s help, tweaked the carry bag for the Jane loom and sewed a table runner out of an old piece of Japanese fabric. Though I’d spaced the sewing across four days my back was reminding me that it doesn’t like me sewing much, so I took a break.

The projects I want to tackle next are more complicated. I’ve already sewn a calico of a pair of a new pants pattern I’d bought recently… with the usual result of finding the waist is too low and the crotch too high – darn annoying things to adjust for. I may end up putting that one aside, as the idea of making a long skirt out of the fabric appeals just as much.

But in the meantime another 4 shaft class has happened, and I’m back to being all about the weaving.

Redo

Aaaaages ago I crocheted a scarf called a Curly Whirly. It was a brief crochet craze that spread through the online knitting/crochet world. While it is fascinating how the scarf curls around itself, it’s not exactly a practical scarf – more a decorative one. I never wore it, but the yarn had felted too much to frog, and since I’d bought on my first big trip overseas, I didn’t want to discard it.

Four years ago I embellished this cardigan:

It’s had plenty of use. I was growing tired of it, though. I’d nearly sent it off to the op shop a few times, but recently I found that Curly Whirly scarf and, well…

I did make a bit of hole in the cardigan when removing the chain stitch lines, but a bit of visible mending fixed that. Bring on winter!

Year in Review: 2020

I’m a bit late doing my usual review, but better late than never!

January

The first creation I mentioned in January 2019 was our house number mosaic. I’m still pretty chuffed about this one. The next is one I also still love – the embroidery I sewed to the back of a jacket.

February

Feb was all about decor, with me making these cushion colours and most of my weaving time spend making the Memories Rya Rug.

March

Which I finished in March.

April

I did a big cull of my hats, scarves and shawls. Some frogging and embellishment happened, and many were given away. The scarf below gained some pom poms, which were exactly what it needed to transform from nice to wonderful.

And I went to the Fibre Forum in Ballarat, for what was to be my last workshop with Kay Faulkner.

Once home I finished the bird bath mosaic.

May

And soon after, finished the mosaic clock I’d been working on for two and a half years.

And went on a jewellery-making jape.

June

Kay died. I learned the news on a day of unusually intense physical pain, and came to a conclusion and decision that I hope will change my life for the better. (So far, so good!)

I finished a honeycomb scarf on my AKL.

July

I finished a runner I wove as a gift.

Wove two more using the sakiori technique, using rags from an old kimono.

And wove off the remaining warp from Kay’s workshop by trying spot bronson for the first time.

August

I started a four-shaft certificate weaving course at the guild.

And I bought another floor loom.

September

And before I had a chance to try it out, my Dad’s neighbour died and I had to help him clear her estate. With the much appreciated help of friends, we sent as much as possible of her unwanted belongings to various charities, and later raised money for charity by holding trash’n’treasure stalls and putting vintage clothes in a shop on consignment.

October

This and work took over my life so that I blogged mostly updates with no photos. But I did agree to run a rigid heddle class at the guild’s Summer School, and started making samplers and course notes.

Oh, and I turned 50.

November

I bought another table loom. And when I wove off the warp on it I’d made an unexpectedly beautiful, iridescent table runner.

December

As if to make up for August and September’s drought, December was intensely creative.

My friend KRin and I had fun making new candles from old.

I dyed some things.

I wove tea towels for Mum for Christmas – the first project on the ‘new’ floor loom.

At one point I had to write up a weaving schedule, so that I could prioritise and place the weaving of four projects: the tea towels, warping up looms for the 4-shaft weaving class and rug weaving workshop, and weaving samplers and examples for the rigid workshop I was going to teach. I made all my deadlines with a bit of time to spare, and had a Christmas season I enjoyed more than I had for years – apart from that one year we went to Japan!