Friday, July 24, 2015

Farewell, My Friends

In spite of perceived weather-weirdness, (and I can't tell if this has been a particularly cold winter, if we had more cold days but not at significantly lower temperatures, or if it's just me,) I've been making steady progress in the garden. That's steady, as in I go out and do stuff, but so far this winter it's been limited to the "outside my kitchen window" area, which is about one-seventh of our vast estate. (It used to take a couple of days to tidy this area Pre-Convolvulous.)

Nevertheless I had a mini goal of finishing this little patch by a certain date, the third or fourth revised date having been today. Then yesterday morning, my beloved 17-year-old leather boots decided to retire and let me know by allowing two of my left toes to slip outside the boot while I perched on a slope lifting a few unsmall citrus/camellia/name-unknown branches/trunks we pruned last November and left on the ground to rot; they prevented surface weeds smartly but not the C-word, so I've been moving them to a temporary heap and digging all week.

When I got a small hole in one of the soles I bought some expensive, bouncy insoles which made these boots the heavenly, never-before experienced comfortable footwear, and watertight. When I got a small tear near my left big toe, I brought it to the local shoe wizard to have it resoled, but the leather on the sides were too far gone for repairs. Still, they lasted further six-to-nine months until the recent up-and-down with heavy load. Channeling a little VvG.
I got these when I had an office job and a cold office. The first year I wore them at work, the second year, as they started to get scuff marks, all the time, and by the third, I wore them everywhere but work. At some point, especially since the third pair of gum boots intended for garden work that didn't fit, these became my Go To guys. The leather is now so soft I can sit down on the ground the way Japanese ladies do in their kimonos, on my knees. And I can't conceive of throwing them away. But I need a new pair so I can climb the slope without half of my left foot coming out of the boot.

Never did I wished I could drive like yesterday morning; I could have gotten a new pair and carry on as if nothing happened, even though new ones would have been rather stiff. Or I could have carried on, finished yesterday's job, then gone into town. Heck, I could have done the morning's job, as I did, then taken the bus to go into town, and then I wouldn't be posting pictures on a blog this morning but would be nearly finished with this patch by now.

But I didn't. I was tired yesterday afternoon, so planned to go into town with Ben this morning, but had I done so, I would have watched a movie, walked around town, and wasted a whole day as I tend to on these occasions, so I changed my mind; that I could have gone into town, gotten a new pair, taken the bus home and get back in the garden by 11AM did not occur to me. So I sat at the kitchen table pining to haul half-rotting tree trunks and dig nasty roots, thinking of how many centimeters in which direction to move one seedling that is too near another, and planning how to proceed with the next patch.

Oh, well, we'll probably go into town tomorrow, get boots, maybe brunch or coffee and pastry, check out the bookshops, maybe the Saturday Market, maybe get some herb seedlings, and gypsum at the hardware store.

It's not that I haven't worked at all, but the house has been too cold most mornings ergo the steady gardening. Plus things haven't gone as planned.
I started threading a cotton warp, alternate 2/20 and 2/60, intended for a commission wall piece, (in spite of my repeatedly telling the client I don't do wall pieces,) but I keep changing my mind about the sett and now I think it'll be too narrow for a wall piece. It'll make a few interesting scarves, but now I may need a new warp for the said commission, and I've felt a little discouraged, let's just say, to keep warping the 1424 ends, half of which I can barely see.
I threaded a cashmere/angora/something warp of alternating native and overdyed-with-walnut-shells pale pink camel, and it was so so so fuzzy my eyes and sinuses had a hard time just with the threading, so I'm dreading the weaving. This is for one commission, one Thank You, and one merchandise. If I live to tell the tale, it should make wonderfully fluffy pieces, if not somewhat shed-y.

And I found a somewhat new obsession in the form of hellebores, but that's for another post.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

More Words

We've established inexperience/ignorance, fear, laziness/expediency are why I judge my weaving based on technique in the first instance.

It dawned on me my appraisal of technique may have inflamed my perception of the chasm between art and craft. Though I still don't like post-1980's (??) art education that produces work heavy on concept/theory and light on technique/execution.

After my second and third viewing of Agnes Martin's vid, I didn't know why/where I thought she and I shared so much sentiment towards making. Initially even her vocabulary seemed to overlap with mine, but now I'm not sure. I think she said, though, painting is how she spends her life, the purpose for which she lives, and I feel the same way about weaving.

One of the biggest difference between what she said and how I work is I don't receive/execute inspirations like her and many writers. (It's incredible how many writers claim they only took down what not-they dictated.) I pick up/out starting points, sometimes visually, sometimes in stories, but from there I work out how I can make these idea seeds into cloth.

Material and structure are so integral to what we do we can't disregard them when discussing weaving, but discussions of paintings are sometimes divorced from their materiality, instead focusing on the painter's intentions, their place in various isms, (which are named/assigned in retrospect, sometimes against the painter's will,) or larger social/historical context. We're not often asked what we'd hoped to express with our weaving, are we? I must not forget, however, paintings do have physical attributes and this is why I can't really experience a painting from JPGs, posters, or even heavy, expensive art books.

I also need to remind myself I often talk directly to weavers and textile artists, or read what they wrote, whereas I read what art critics and historians wrote about painters and paintings more often than not. And we know they are very different stuff.

* * * * *

What, then, do I mean when I say weaving? Some of the components/factors, with some overlap, are:

  • Purpose of the piece - what is it?
  • Shape/size/dimension of the piece;
  • Fibers used and their characteristics and/or suitability to the purpose, (including using unsuitable fibers for non-utilitarian reasons;)
  • Hues/values/intensity or saturation/sheen of constituent yarns, proportion, and overall look/effect/mood;
  • Shape of the constituent yarns, (straight, slub, bouclé, etc), proportion, and physical depth, (flat vs 3D) of the finished piece;
  • Weave structure, scale, combination with hue/value/intensity/sheen, and overall visual impact; 
  • Hand/drape;
  • Main visual elements, (lines, shapes, motif, scale, proportion, balance, hues/values/intensity) and the overall impact/impression;
  • Sometimes price;
  • Sometimes even the suitability of the washing instructions;
  • What else can you think of?? 

(When I use write "impact", I don't necessarily mean a strong impact is better, and I wondered if effect or visual outcome were better. Like intensity of colors, I think the most desirable impact depends on the purpose and the taste of the piece.)

But this doesn't exhaust what constitute weaving/cloth; I would add:

  • My emotional reaction. Is this the same as taste?
  • Mood;
  • Historical/ethnic/traditional context if any;
  • The maker and her/his story;
  • Overall technique and the maker's knowledge. I don't mean, necessarily, selvedge, etc, but I cannot help being impressed when a knowledgeable maker sheds much to concentrate on/highlight a few elements. This is when the piece stands out as a whole rather than the sum, (sublime?) but I don't feel it necessarily means less is more; 
  • Suitability of the piece to the purpose, because let's face it, good exhibition pieces can look like cousins thrice removed by four marriages, and 30 years younger than my fav cashmere; 
  • The piece and the physical surrounds, especially in shops and exhibitions;  
  • Inevitably, in the appropriate context, value for money;
  • What else can you think of, even if only paraphrasing??

Why is this discourse important to me? Well, for one I had thought I wasn't getting enough creative pleasure out of stash-busting making, but I was wrong; I so enjoyed the brown pieces, (the outcome was wonderful,) but not so much weaving with my default yarns. So I'm not so sure what activity/result give me pleasure these days. I also need to not feel so bad about the limitations of my technique, so excuses or not, I need to cultivate a new perspective. But perhaps it's time I lift my game some, to make something a little better than before, or at least please me just a bit more.

With that in view, what do I aim for with my weaving?

  • Not the approval of experienced weavers, not any more. I know this is as extrinsic to the object as it is intrinsic, and technically I can never meet the old school approval; 
  • I am looking for that one person who wants to wear/hang a piece I made and experience gushing joy or unexpected solace. If I can make a few folks giggle with excitement on the way, that's an added bonus;
  • I want to please/surprise/astound myself with what I can make. At the end of my time, I hope to feel my life had been worthwhile making a few pretty things, that I see some were indeed pretty. I want to know I've worked hard and the effort/result pleases me. In the end, I hope I can approve of myself. 

Enough words; now I weave.

* * * * *

This warped/twisted spiderweb keeps coming back just outside the kitchen window. The first two were blown away in the recent gale winds and this is the third, smaller and less intricate than the first two. A wink/nod my way?

* * * * *

Young Annie came over on Wednesday and we powwowed for five hours non-stop. She had tuition from a wonderful weaver, and Annie's knowledge/technique/competence (hemstitching! spinning! dyeing!) are miles ahead of me. Wonderful!

EDIT: Annie was confronted with, "But is it art?" in her first year of weaving; she's better equipped than I, having been to art school, and I wished I remember how she said she responded. I was also a little surprised she's stayed, so far, on fabric-weaving track, as we discussed the art/textile art track as well before we got started. That feels like years ago and just a few months ago at once.

Sunday, July 5, 2015


It is advisable to sit on my thought-y drafts to avoid dribbling verbiage I think I will revisit but never do. I know. Lately I have been more disciplined, to the point most drafts get deleted after reaching a kind of satisfying resolution. Except if I don't write it down I forget where I went, and if I don't map the evanescent path I don't remember the trip, leaving me with that sinking feeling I wasted hours/days/years of my life once again.

There is that counterargument some thoughts are better left not translated into words, at least not prematurely, but the general mood in my head of late is, this isn't one of them. Ergo another "I have no idea where I'm going with this" tautology. (And this'd better be important because I've spent two lovely winter-gardening days pondering.)

It's about technique, aesthetics, value of a piece of weaving, perspective, and whatever else that surrounds them.

Dad, even though he never said it, (which was rare because he was firmly in the do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do school,) believed striving is what made life worth living, particularly pertaining to one's study/work. (Being moral/transparent was incontrovertible and never troubled him so he had a lot of time to think of doing-striving rather than being-striving, but his rage/disgust towards those who weren't ate him up, too.) Dad also believed though we can't completely create/control our fate, one can often find room for effort and good planning. I appreciate him as a role model, though now i can't remember if I ever told him.

You know I can never not see my glaring technical weaknesses, nor can stop thinking/talking about them. As I learns more about weaving, about how to solve/remedy some of the technical issues, I see and evaluate my, and others', weaving from this perspective. (And by and large my experiences with the New Zealand guild's education and exhibition focused on this only.)

Except this is not the only perspective. It's actually a bad one in our multifarious post-modern world. It makes easy measurement for those who want to yield authority, to mark/score and rank us, akin to true/false, multiple choice, fill the gap exam questions. It provides empirical got-it/don't-got-it-ness embroidered as objectivity but doesn't reflect our human-ness, the inexplicable whole. Technique is only one part.

When we praise craft in Japan, there is much written about technique and execution, and of course of tradition, but also the unspoken but shared understanding of a something else that please us, that the whole is not only greater but when successful far more sublime and mysterious than the sum of the parts. And that if you don't get it, you're not Japanese enough. Conversely this is probably how we learn what's desirable of Japanese aesthetics, of being Japanese. It helps that the language is not one of exposition but of much implication so simpleton like I am never sure of exactly what I am appreciating, but that I have to be in awe. This loose but sometimes threatening nature of our language, (i.e. thinking,) keeps many Japanese from misbehaving, from being extra-ordinary, but to behave maturely, adhering to common sense. It's hard work.

I can see this something else in other people's work; weaving, pottery, music, theater, sports, life, and sometimes prefer the jagged, bent, skewed or the smudged, but not in my weaving. (It's easier with my drawing.) I keep myself in line by pretending to be a responsible grownup maker, in talking the talk. This is partly due to accepting everybody having different tastes, (taste being perception and preference?) that there is no good or bad tastes. (At least we don't talk about it even though as makers we know best what good taste is!) It's also due to the inside of my head being perpetually disorganized and my not knowing how to remedy, or being too busy weaving to take the time to investigate. It's also due to my lack of self-knowledge/confidence and/or experience in being allowed to choose having been raised Japanese, female, and Catholic. Even though I'm old, the old Japanese saying, "a three-year-old's spirit stays until 100," rings true in my case. Or it's post-menopausal indecision. Whatever it is, the empirical measurement is instant and easy, and being an impatient person, that is the easiest place to start scrutiny.

More words to come, but my eyes have sunk deep into my head, so I'll close this by introducing you to a short vid of Canadian/American artist Agnes Martin, whom I discovered this week.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Finding the Saddle and Some Thick Skin

Was I in a funk! It was the first time I seriously thought of quitting weaving altogether. I didn't want to think about weaving and didn't go anywhere near looms or yarns, in life or online.

Instead, I was happy to go outside, except we had some rain, another cold spell, (not as big a problem as I waited until afternoons when the frost was gone,) and severe-weather-warming gale winds, which weren't as bad as forecast but was no gardening weather.

I had a secret ambition to spend as many hours gardening in the first half of this year as I did all last year, but May and June weather made that difficult; I couldn't even do 100 hours. Oh, well.

Instead, I read. Fiction. And a lot of websites where writers wrote about writing, and listened to author interviews on Radio NZ and NPR. The book itself was not fabulous, 6.5 out of 10?, a farce about a fictional writers' festival. Now I'm reading another by the same author about writing workshops. I thought of putting in serious effort in fiction writing again, but I still remember why I chose weaving over writing fifteen years ago, and most days I sat and looked out the window waiting for the wind to stop.

Meanwhile, I found interesting what Woodson said about a writer-ly way of reading, as I most definitely am a follow-the-plot reader most days. I also contemplated reading the same book multiple times. The last I did this was with Viviano's  "Blood Washes Blood", which started out as a man's search for his ancestors but turned into Gariboldi and the start of Sicilian mafia. If I were to read a book for a second time from my adulthood, (as I reread and re-reread books in childhood,) I'd start with "The Scarlet Letter" because the first time I followed the rather unpleasant story and still noticed the magical writing.

Thursday would have been the first day I could have gardened, but I went into town to talk to Andrea and show her the pieces I had trouble with. I ended up leaving most at the Suter, because I observed her and a volunteer's reaction and comments. I never bought into it's-handweaving-imperfection-gives-character school of thought; technique has to be as good as I can make it, though that's never been my strong suit. But I decided to try out another perspective. And some thick skin.

It doesn't mean I'll stop experimenting/practicing to improve techniques, but  I want to see what I make more holistically, (is that the right word?). I'm not justifying bad techniques, but trying to think/see outside my familiar/comfort zone.

Weavers will be horrified; I may need to handmade a balaclava.

I also met with Jean for coffee that day, and she asked me what my project/s were for the next little while. I said it's stash reduction, and explained it's not the speed or quantity troubling me, but the back-to-front way of designing/planning. Since Alison told us in 2002 not to look at the yarns on hand first and base our designs on them, I've followed her instructions. Working backwards feels foreign, especially when working with some of Mom's yarns I would never have bought, but this is half a step outside my comfort zone. Shouldn't be a big deal after some practice.

Thursday night I felt excited about weaving again, but Friday morning was more like seeing an old friend with whom I had a big fight. Slowly, instead of white or undyed plain silk I went looking for, I picked a salmon pink silk bouclé weft, and I got back on the saddle. In the first 32 picks, three warp ends broke, (two in the 32nd pick,) and I braced myself for another challenging afternoon but the rest of the 500-32 wove smoothly. Today another 400 picks went without a hitch, and I even started planning/preparing the next few projects while I wove.

Big smiles.
The weft is more pink than orange or brown. I can hardly see the pattern as I weave, but it's a modified version of the second one here. It's thin and delicate but I'm curious to see how it washes. I think I'll call this, "Twin Set and Pearls".

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Cold Spell

Lately I've been writing, rewriting, photographing and revising new blog posts only to scrap the whole thing. I've said it all before in the last, what, nine years and two months. And unless I have a new discovery or a change of mind or new news, I don't want to repeat repeating myself. Because I do that. A lot. And when one works to focus on one thing and thus makes one's life smaller and smaller, one is bound to be left with few topics to ponder, even in this age of information and technology.

And I'm tired of listening to my own mild health woes, (although it was only just the other day I noticed I inherited it,) the garden, (winter half over and all kinds of bulbs, shoots and new leaves are coming out already,) and my problem with techniques. While washing two big pieces yesterday, I noticed something new-ish.

Because I'm less happy with the outcome of my pieces I've been deliberately slowing down, first physically but now my head follows. I try to concentrate on whichever process I'm working on at the moment and that only. Not that I ever tried anything else but I'm doing this even more deliberately. When successful, I can really stop "thinking" and just observe and absorb. No more thinking up fiction story lines, no more planning the fifth and sixth next projects, and certainly no more remembering all the other little stuff I'm meant to be doing.

What is happening, however, is not always what I intended. For e.g. when I'm weaving, I can't see both selvedges of wider pieces without moving because I'm concentrating on whichever side I can see, and also because my peripheral vision is not as good. While washing, I am more aware of how my body has shrunk; how much higher my bathtub is, (if you're short, you know taking down a mug from a high kitchen shelf may require a chair, but putting it back on the same shelf doesn't; I can't stretch as much as I used to); how my face/eyeglasses are closer to the water and the hot water steams up my glasses. And how uncomfortable and tiring washing has become. I'm not observing the cloth; I don't modify the degree of felting according to desired outcome like before. I know these things are partly physical, some to do with aging, but I also have a much "narrower" attention span, and I don't know how to remedy it.

The only idea I've had as regards techniques is this: my four-shaft weaving has better selvedges and shapes. This could be because I use different yarns and the structures are much simpler, but I wonder also if it is because I stand up to weave. So I might try a foot stool and stand up and weave of that, too; because the big loom operates with just one pedal rather than multiple treadles, standing and weaving is easier with this loom. If this doesn't work, I'll think of giving up wide pieces.

I can only hope I haven't passed the pinnacle of my weaving skills without noticing. But it is what it is, another curveball in my life.
"Wave" (?), not in a great shape but interesting because on one side the warp, and on the other the weft, stands out from the other set of yarns. Is that the right way to say it? It's... 2.5D.
I had high hopes for this, but I may have felted it a little too far; this one should have had fringes but I hemmed it. The colors are slightly more saturated. I haven't got a name yet.
"Nostalgia". Mom's old wool warp and possum/merino/silk weft, light and not so thick but very warm.
"Always". Mom's old wool both ways, and on rainy days it even smelled like sheep while I was weaving. Heavier and thicker and heftier than above, I don't think this kind of cloth will ever disappear. I once had a suit made of fabric that looked like this, (from Mom's stash,) but it contained mohair and I couldn't wear it. Silly me.

* * * * *

The technique thing has bothered me more than I imagined; I caught myself wondering several times what I would do if I quit weaving. Then jokingly I thought I'd garden. But I remembered the first winter after I left my last full time job, I gardened full time for the month of August, and I enjoyed it so much the following winter I gardened full time for six or seven weeks in the winter creating a rose garden for Ben. So now I'm contemplating giving myself a holiday; for a week or two I might garden all day and not worry about weaving, because there's nothing like weeding and pruning in the crispy mild Nelson winter. Except it's been 14/15 years since those wonderful winters; goodness know how my body will cope. LOL.

But I don't plan on giving up weaving just yet; I've spent too much time and energy learning this craft; that's ten-plus years of my life.

* * * * *

My short-term memory has become so bad, sometimes I have brilliant ideas and get pumped up, then blink or breathe and I forget. Some ideas that don't disappear are too good not to hold on to, but writing/doodling distort or direct them prematurely. I need a new way of saving my ideas.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Parts that Made Up my Week

Well, some of them.

I finished these.
White merino/mohair warp, undyed merino-with-scale weft, it's soft and the design is shown by the different sheen, which I like. This is sold and is going to Scotland.
Same warp, variegated white-to-pale-blue superwash merino weft. (Color below is closer to true on my monitor.) For the number of things going on in the draft, it doesn't show up and I don't know if I'll use this draft again.
The variegation almost hides/disguises the wave pattern close up, which I found interesting; I haven't decided if I like it or not, but it mostly gives different views closeup and from a distance.

I fringed/hemmed some more, and there are eight waiting to be washed; none waiting to be fringed/hemmed. But I'm more interested in weaving at the moment and trying to improve my techniques, particularly the selvedge of pieces wider than 40cm. This is annoying/worrying me so much I have contemplated giving up weaving, but nah, no way.

In between, when the weather and my schedule allows, I am weeding. Our garden is what it is, and I try not to be too discouraged. I've been looking for visual clues to "controlled chaos" to no avail; if you know of websites, blogs, books, please let me know. Cottage gardens are considered almost a hoax in New Zealand; here, especially in Nelson, they are extremely labor-intensive because of our mild, plant-friendly climate, but my uneducated guess is, choosing the right plants and planting in the style of a cottage garden may be the answer? And leaving no negative space, of course.

While I worked, Michael Wood's "In Search of Shakespeare" kept me company. I watched all episodes four times and I want to tackle reading my Riverside Shakespeare cover to cover again. But I might do this in conjunction with audio recordings. Some of his language I understand better when I hear rather than read.

In the last post, I said, "I enjoy time-, energy- and idea-consuming projects." Around that time I discovered this blog, which is just too wonderful not to share. I haven't reconciled how the qualities I love in these dolls can translate into how I work, but who cares!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Life is What Happens while I Think of Interesting Things to Post - The Weaving Part

In between the slow bits I worked. I fringed/hand sewed and washed:
The crawl, or whatever you call it, is a bit big to go around once and small for twice. I also fringed/hemmed these and need to wash:
I threaded the white warp on the big loom in two days, (fast for me,) and sampled and decided which draft to weave with which weft.
Yellow and orange weren't weft candidates but I wanted to check for threading mistakes. I'm nearly finished with a variegated pale blue merio weft piece in this wavy draft.

I wove two pieces on the four-browns warp on Jack and decided on the third and fourth wefts. They will be fabrics.
In A, (left in the top pic,) the weft is an undyed possum/merino/silk; in B I alternated wefts of a taupe in the warp and a gray not in the warp, which accentuated complexity of the two grayer/less brown warps. I'm thrilled with this because the kind of dyeing I've wanted to do is not "making (insert-color)" per se, but producing multiple values or sheen or slightly different hues of a base color. In fabric C I'll use an original white and its three variations of walnut taupe; this is an unlabled, fat, fluffy, udon-like wool, (so knitting yarn?) and I'm yet to fine-tune the beating but not as hard as in the sample. The last fabric will probably be D, the pale taupe also used in the warp. I think.

And I have an idea about what to do on the Klick cashmere mix warp.
* is the warp color.

I should be happy with my productivity, right? Well, yes and no. I'm happy I am making imperceptible dents in my stash. Although this Mom's old-style wool set was a fairly big bag and when I finish the second, two-grays warp, it'll be the end of a nice-sized project. I'm also glad I am accumulating pieces for an online store later.

But beyond that, ummmmm, nah.

First is my technique; you knew this. Technique was never my strong point but lately it's as if my body isn't minding my brain; I'm less dexterous. I recently hemmed, very wobbliy (?), a piece that most definitely should have been fringed. I can't weave as wide as I used to; I can't sit up high enough to be able to see both selvadges comfortably and make sure they're straight. (Loom bench, pedal, and cloth beam's structure/height prevent me from sitting any higher.) I seem to keep putting on, on the big loom, yarns that can't handle the big loom. I can't keep going.

Because I've been focusing more on stash-busting, the yarn choices tend to come first. And for expediency I've been recycling/reusing recent drafts. Of course I change fibers, colors, textures, sheen, scale to make every piece nice, but they are not unique, to me, and because I'm used to good merino and cashmere, not all pieces come out heavenly soft.

We all work in different ways. Mom and I talk about this a lot. I enjoy time-, energy- and idea-consuming projects. And working more like a grownup, in a streamlined, time-saving way dilutes my making, ergo my life. Lately I can't luuurve my pieces, not can I be bothered to loath any, and if you've been around here for any time, you know this is a problem.

Mom said she's been taking fewer pictures when she travels and this is also true for me. With failing memory, fewer new/fresh experiences, and not a lot of records, life seems to lack impact. And I've not, in the past, been a finding-joys-in-small-things kind of a person; I prefer my life to be saturated with sparks, the exact opposite of depression.

I need to find a good in-between place where I can work consistently but still experience brilliant, sparkly joy.

* * * * *

I got to work in the garden Monday and Tuesday. Alright, that's a small-things joy, but it was nice. Like weaving, gardening makes me concentrate on the immediate task. I find that restful.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Life is What Happens while I Think of Interesting Things to Post - The Non-Weaving Part

I've been going through the cyclical "Should I or shouldn't I (continue to blog)" thing, mainly because I've not had an interesting thought in a while, (more in the next post,) yet suspecting I'll continue one way or another because this is good therapy and the only way I will know in the future how I spent my life.

I knew I needed a week or two to recover from visitor-receiving and I had scheduled hibernation/regrouping, but it's taken me a bit longer. I had a day and a half of the old mild-to-moderate depression following three days of rational/considered diagnosis, when I was physically off-the-scale tired but not depressed, because I continued to plan my near-future projects and didn't have insomnia. Besides, I'd not had episodes since 2011-ish so I thought I was over and done with it.

I had other symptoms; any light was too bright, I startled even more easily at the slightest noise, I slept a lot, and I either had no appetite or binged on junk food. Came a week ago Wednesday, I think, when I lied down in front of the fire mid-morning and waited for time to pass.

Tic toc.



I had a few good books and pretty magazines within reach and opened none.

Luckily it was gone by Thursday morning, so I've been back to my prematurely-aging-sloth self. It hasn't helped that the weather has been sucky; we've had a bit of rain where some days were as dark as early evenings inside; sunny-cold-and-windy ones when I dressed like the Good Year Blimp only to last half an hour outside; and a handful of perfect days when I happened to want to continue what I'd started the previous day, i.e. work, which I thought was sensible, all things considered. I haven't cooked well, I didn't think of collages, and wasn't going anywhere near drawing.

I was happy to discover work was the one thing I could stick with even if/when I'm in a bad shape; if this is my coping mechanism, bring it on.

What else. I thought about people and socializing with no conclusion nor new resolve.

I thought about aging, health and my weight, and have contemplated taking herbal pills to kick start but reached no conclusion; my gardening is no exercise, at least no cardio is involved, so I need to walk more.

I turned 57 eight weeks ago but I keep seeing myself as "almost 60", which in term invites aging-related woes, I suspect. I try not to listen so attentively to my mother's and her friends'/acquaintances' health problems but she is incessant and my body, not my head, appears to empathize/align with her. I remember coming home with new ailments after my trips to Japan.

Come to think of it, when she was pregnant with my brother and I was twelve, I had her symptoms for a month, though I couldn't tell anyone because it was a particularly busy period for my parents.  But what kind of a kid experiences phantom pregnancy at age 12, right?

I look at the mirror often enough, or so I thought, but it's when I see myself through Ben's eyes, or his photographs of me, that I'm truly taken aback and burst out laughing, although that's not his intent. This one's from last night; I call it, "A Whale Resting by Two Wool Swatches." Ben gave me a nice haircut today, though.
The garden continues to overwhelm me as I look for more permanent solutions. I learned from a BBC garden show the phrase, "controlled chaos"; I like this but don't know what it means in the garden and the examples they show are anything but chaotic. Cottage-y at best. Just not in straight lines.

In fact, I'm learning that optimal methods of propagation is different between the UK and Nelson; ours are more basic and easier. Which suits me. And then garden show hosts of course have multiple buildings, material and tools galore, which I don't want, and don't always need in Nelson, so I have to be selective in following advice. There hasn't been a good/permanent NZ garden shows for about a decade now, so I watch UK and Australian shows and go for the middle ground in terms of climate.

One disappointment I discovered only a month or two ago is that in Nelson we are not supposed to have negative spaces; every bit of ground needs to be planted to deprive the weeds of sun and space, or paved/concreted. Over time we've tried some expensive alternatives using newspapers, plastics, rocks/pebbles, tree barks and of course mulching in the past, but they don't stay in a good shape for long. Last weekend we ripped up one such small area to discard the plastic and Ben dug 50cm to get out convolvulus bulbs the size of a small child's head. The weeds went deeper, grew under the worked/covered area, and resurfaced 2 and 3 meters away, so we have to dig up a wide area next.


Friday, May 22, 2015


It's been an up-and-down week, but I managed some work. I didn't do it in good balance, (not much gardening in spite of three beautiful still, sunny but chilly days,) and I might regret having so many warps on so many looms at once. But I'll live.
I made a warp with the navy version of the previous gray mill-end fine merino, and started wondering what silk to use in the weft. Mom wants an uplifting, light-colored piece; she wanted me to withdraw one of the grays from the Suter but I don't do that, and she's so not a gray person, and I so enjoyed weaving with this yarn, so I'm looking forward to this project.
I made warp of cashmere mixed with a few other things, some of which I overdyed with walnut shells way back. It's on the 16-shaft Klick because one of the pieces is Mom's commission she wants it in a many-shaft weave, and I'm not putting another cashmere warp on the big loom in the foreseeable future. But even on this loom I'm not confident if this yarn can withstand all the ups and downs. I may come to regret this. I need to design a lovely curvy threading to be woven in a straight-forward, regular lift plan. Another piece will be a Thank You pressie. Unless I get so frustrated and cut it off.
I made two warps with Mom's old wool; one in two grays, another in four browns, again some overdyed in walnut shells. I had in mind fabrics, but these wash up so deliciously I may make at least one shawl from each warp. Or two.
The brown warp is waiting to be threaded in Dornick; I have more of the two un-overdyed brown to go in the weft first; haven't thought beyond that.  
 The two grays' weft candidates are waiting to be called up.
I recounted the number of merino/mohair warp ends. 520, not 500 as written down, which makes me wonder how many I have in the black version, which I made immediately before this, and for which I wrote down 500 also. I need to make a few drafts but they will be similar to or modified versions of what I used for the fine gray merino. Or not.
Some nights ago I fringed roughly 55% of this piece; I need to finish this before I forget how many times I twisted each way.
And as long as I'm in a brown mood, (because I'm so not a brown weaver,) I may make one more warp before I sit down to weave. Or not.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Joy Spilled Over to the Weekend

On Friday Maria brought me lemons from her tree and a skein of snow-white silk, wrapped in cute cloth and ribbon; she called my attention to the ribbon but I was so taken by the purple polka-dotted swatch I was speechless. Kath brought us bread to go with my bean soup and apricot squares but you are mistaken if you thought I'd take pictures of apricot squares before getting stuck into them, my dears.
Having an ally like Maria makes me feel confident I will eventually be able to make use of any fabric I weave. Somehow. These are from Mom's stash and interesting in this instance she bought many colors of the same yarn which makes the stash easier for me to use. (She usually buys one skein or one skein each of a few colors.) They are old-fashioned, greasy, scaly wool. The four smaller balls I overdyed with walnuts years ago tell me the resultant cloth will full beautifully.
More stash-busting idea mixing/matching shades/fibers/styles. The four brown at the left, (I excluded the tiny dark brown,) will become another fabric warp.
Next warp, merino/mohair mix, approx 17/2, (110/2 in Kiwispeak;) I usually thread the same size merino from the same source at 18EPI but this yarn doesn't full so I'll start sampling at 20EPI. I had written down 500 ends, but I had 26 inches in the raddle. Humm...
Weft candidates: possum/merino/silk in natural/brown, merino in variegated light blues, and a skinny (78/2 from memory) merino with a little bit of scale. I say a little bit because merino-with-scale as I know/learned fulls far more richly than this one, but it's still a lovely yearn.

I had a great idea for a fourth weft while winding on the warp, then the loom make a cracking sound halfway through, something you might expect if 100 warp ends broke at once. I couldn't find anything unusual with the loom nor a single broken warp, though, so I kept winding gingerly. I might be in for a rude surprise later.

I remembered the fourth candidate when I walked into the stash room but I haven't retrieved it. The stash room hasn't been put back in order and everything is still pushed against the dresser and, well, in chaos as far as accessing/retrieving goes. One reason I haven't remedied this is I have been wondering if/when I will go back to drawing/mixed media, and how much stuff, among them collage material, to keep. I won't ever stop playing with them, but I have accumulated a bit in the years I took drawing lessons, and I know that if I culled them the room would be roomier. Hummm...

Mom told me about a lecture series she found in her neighborhood; a young Japanese anthropologist/film-maker addressing belief systems in Bali. She was so excited and I was so envious I started watching BBC's Lost Kingdom of Central America and Lost Kingdom of South America, some of which were available on a NZ telly channel website. This is curious because Central and South Americas are the last big regions I've become interested in, largely because they never popped up in world history classes when I was a student in Japan, except the Incas, Mayas and the Spanish expansion. But textile-wise, I've been aware they are so important and fascinating.

In one of the episodes a scholar mentioned the iconography on a beer vessel; this one had on the outside motifs from an older, geographically-distant culture which initially developed and promoted beer, but the inside was decorated with motifs from the later, local makers'/users' culture.

And I've been dwelling on the idea of iconography.  

And I've been trying to write a blog post on my Japanese blog on how to wet-finish cashmere and wool. Since Christmas.

And there are eight off-the-loom pieces at various stages of finishedness on the floor.