Saturday, August 28, 2010

Get Over Yourself!

Thursday night was our last session of Skirt Block Pattern Making Workshop with Jill. The session consisted of the second toile fitting, (each student being recommended different styles, lengths, fullness,) finalizing the fitted skirt block, some thoughts on fabrics; notes on the blocks to make them easier to use; making a second, flared skirt, block; and how to cut patterns for facings. And perhaps some other handy matters.

Because I missed last week, Jill had my altered paper block for me, (the good news was I wasn't as asymmetrical as we thought so I needed only a half-body pattern,) but I had to make a second toile, so I couldn't listen to what Jill said to others. She sewed my toile, then Lana tried to fit it, but because of my unconventional shape, I had to stand around in the toile for a long, long time while Lana and Jill discussed alternatives on how to try to solve multitude of problems, and also while Jill went away to help others. I think Jill was exasperated by the ill fit of the body.

There was no other way it could have been done. In a way I'm glad Jill didn't tell me to make up the second toile at home so I can be fitted with everybody else; that would have been even more embarrassing. And Jill and Lana were most professional and polite, and there was nothing anybody could have done or not done under the circumstances. Still, I couldn't help feeling bad; afterwards, such words as "humiliating" and "excruciating" came to mind, but at the time, I just felt genuinely sorry for myself and wanted to get out of the toile and back into my elastic-wasted pants.

I spent the rest of the class time altering the altered skirt block, and I came home with more fabric to make a third toile, and must go get fitted by Jill again one Sunday. Everybody else went home with two completed skirt blocks, fitted and flared, except Lana, but she said it was OK because she was tired from work.

The next stage is pants/trousers; I'm not interested in sewing my own pants, but from memory we were required to do a particular stage before we can attend the Top Block stage, and if it is pants, I would have to go, because making jackets and coats with handwoven fabric is why I wanted to learn pattern-making in the first place. But if fitting a skirt was this bad, I don't know if I'll survive a pants fitting. It's testing my ability to put on a brave face, bluff, rationalize, whatever it takes to survive each session.

I still get a bit teary thinking about Thursday night.

* * * * *

Friday morning was drawing, of course, and I got up exceptionally early, still; I kept shouting, "Get. Over. Yourself!" but I still felt sucky.

I set up my easel in the same place every week; it's where I feel at home and can hear Ronette and the music, but am not bothered by some of the chattier classmates. The downside is, when Ronette turns off the light so we see the light/shade better, my spot is so dark I can't see what I'm doing. And on a week like this, it may have been the wrong environment to place myself.

I noticed also Ronette has been talking about gesture drawing being about our own gestures while we drew, as much as the model's, so either I never heard this in the first two years and a bit, or she's lurking around here. Anyway, I was relieved to be allowed to use A1 paper again.

* * * * *

After drawing, Jo took me to her house for a cuppa. She lives in a beautiful part of the hills in an early 1900 Villa, tastefully modernized. It's one of those wooden homes with extra high ceilings, tasteful nooks, stained glass windows, intricate plaster and woodwork decorations. And her house had so much wall space the many, many art Jo and Dave collected were not cramped or overwhelming but lovingly (but casually) displayed. It was nice to see Jo's paintings and sculptures, too, and how they changed over the years. It was wonderful to see her sculptures, (I didn't know know she sculpted!). But I admit the best part was a detailed tour of her studio, and how she had her material/storage set up, and that she is besotted with Giacometti.

And for me, though Jo has a much bigger space than I, (and the ceiling height allows for almost double the storage than in a room with standard ceiling height,) she definitely has less clutter, the "just in case" stuff, and certainly nothing on the floor. So I know I'm on the right track to use up my yarns on my floor; I would be able to work on my plastic picnic tables, even if I have to store my non-textile art supplies there. I have considered hanging shelves from the ceiling, along the wall, as was recommended to me by Mrs Armstrong, a Swedish weaver that had a weaving school in Picton, but I think I'll still hold off, because visually it will cramp the room, and practically I will have a hard time retrieving stuff from that height.

* * * * *

This Saturday is going to be an interesting rain/sun kind of a day. There is a floor talk on Orientalism at The Suter. It's been two weeks since my "needs ironing" stack has taken over the small couch, and still growing. There should be plenty of opportunity to get over myself.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Just When I Think I've Got It

Just when I thought I learned more about controlling my moods, I was reminded I hadn't. After gardening Sunday and Monday, I thought I could naturally transfer the energy on to my work, but that wasn't to be. Instead, for two days I obsessed about the promised rain, finally resolving I would go outside to put seedlings in the ground only when the rain finally arrives. Even then, I roamed around the house looking at the color of the air and stepping outside to smell the rain approaching. I should have just gone outside and weeded, because I wasn't getting much done inside.

* * * * *

On Tuesday, I tried to weave another swatch from the Weird Warp. I had about a meter left on the loom, so I was hoping to get a longish, (70cm?) swatch. As soon as I started, though, the warps started breaking again, and after half an hour of weaving and managing about 7cm, I gave up. I cut off the short sample, stripped the loom, and threw the lot into the rubbish. (Normally I save thrums from my good yarns.) And be it the textile paint I used, or that I had stored it casually for 10 years, I'm not interested in investigating why this warp was so prone to breakage. End of story. The only good thing that came from weaving these swatches has been to discover I like the combination of warp-paint and plain weave; this was the first time I wove any length of plain weave since I attend Bonnie Inouye's workshop in 2002, (and nothing but for seven years before that,) but I liked it in this context.

I wanted to put my first of three proper, good merino yarns; these are for scarves to be pole-wrapped-dyed. But I was exhausted I couldn't stay vertical and had a power nap on the floor between the loom and the bench.

* * * * *

I was thrilled to receive Dot's YarnMaker magazine. OK, honestly? Giddy.

It's the first time ever a friend of mine published something, as opposed to befriending published writers, or discovering so-and-so had been published some years previously! (Baby brother included, but he co-authored a slim volume on personal bankruptcy laws, so not my cup of tea, it doesn't count.)

I have some idea of the amount of work Dot put into the magazine for quite some months, not only the fun writing, editing and photographing parts, but the horrible business side of publishing, but when I finally got my hot little volume, I couldn't help feeling she just whipped it out of thin air.

This issue had an article on spindles, and I took out to admire my two tiny spindles made by the late Bill Fournier. One is for spinning fine merino, and the other, finer merino or silk. I learned to spindle-spin years ago, and I thought it would be a spectacular way to always stay in touch with textiles, particularly when I'm traveling, but the velocity of spindle spinning has detracted me. Still, colorful accent yarns, for example, can be spun on a spindle over weeks and months and finally woven into a tiny scarf, and wouldn't that be a lovely "journey" or "process". This is definitely something to put back on my list of possibilities.

By the way, Linda is teaching silk spindle spinning in Maine. I wished I could hop over there magically.

* * * * *

The thought of slow spinning made me want to read the latest contributions on SlowCloth. In principle I love the idea of slow cloth, but what I do and how I work is so slow I can't think beyond how I work now. I enjoy reading what others say, but I feel a voyeur, an outsider. Still, the photos are scintillating; I wouldn't mind possessing some of the works; the images must be what brought me back to beading on Tuesday night.

Exasperated after a counter-productive day, I had the choice of a0 doing nothing in front of mindless crime shows, B0 ironing while watching crime shows, or c) beading while watching crime shows. I must have been desperate to get back on track, because even though I was physically exhausted, (for no real reason,) I put gold- and bronze-colored beads on the bag I bought a while back, and it looked a little more to my liking. Encouraged by this small surprise, I got started on one I toyed with last week; with this, instead of counting the beads and trying to make things symmetric and "perfect", I decided on a more child-like, spontaneous look; because I'm working under artificial lights at night, this was not only easier but a saner choice.

Just that little bit gave me great joy, and I went to bed feeling like I had done something this day.

* * * * *

Wednesday, I paced around the house waiting for rain like a big cat in captivity. It was pathetic, and a little funny. I had hoped to work on my design module, but my head refused to engage, so I did what I could; drew grids on drawing paper that I will need later, cut up photos from two old magazines that will suit my purpose, cut some of them roughly into the size of the grid unit. Blah blah, for three hours. I contemplated beading, but didn't have the gumption to do what I knew would make me feel better. Wuss!

Among the photos, I found a photo of a color scheme I love, stoney, taupy neutrals with blues and indigos; I love the stylish discipline in this color scheme, without making it harsh by turning the neutrals overly light or devoid of hues. I've seen some textiles in these colors, but never something I liked enough; I never considered the reason, but my first guess is the proportion and the distribution of the color areas. Another thing on my list.

(I have to take out faces when I need to concentrate on colors, shapes or patterns, or else I get too too distracted by the expressions. Orientation other than the right side up also helps.)

* * * * *

Rain came late Wednesday night. I too tired to feel happy or relieved, but it must have done the magic, because today I woke up from a dream of a spectacular cotton shawl. Unfortunately I'd need a Jacquard loom or beyond-insanity pick-up to execute this, but it was in my gold-and-pale-blue combination, and I woke up happy and motivated.

My eyesight is so blurred I could still be asleep this morning, but the mind is alert. Today, I'll be working on a) drafts for the to-be-pole-wrapped-dyed pieces, b) drafts for the pebble designs, or c) the design module. I don't think today will be wasted.

Tonight is the last session on Skirt Block Pattern Making with Jill. We come home with our individual, fitted skirt blocks.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

This is How It Should Be

* Not about weaving, except for the mention of a pesky warp; otherwise it's a long, depressed read; get it?? *

It takes time and practice to recognize the symptoms of mild-to-moderate depression, then more time to crawl out of denial, (though sometimes denial works as a fast track,) and then engage in constructive activities leading to normalcy; I should know this after seven and a half years.

By far the hardest is to spot physical symptoms and connect it with depression, as physical symptoms of depression can be anything, and most often I associate mine with either a mild cold (lethargy, headache, blurry eyesights) getting old, (lethargy, blurry eyesights,) or most often, laziness.

When I feel like that, I do engage in doing things or else my life stagnates and then spirals downwards. So I've managed to keep myself busy every day this winter, though this one has been nothing like the last, which was pretty bad as you recall. And when I relax, how can I describe it, I make a conscious effort to relax, instead of merely not engaging.

This winter, these "doing things" has been physically weaving on the loom on bad weather days, and gardening (i.e. weeding) on sunnier days. Our place had been badly neglected these last few years, and there are heaps of work to be done. And though we are behind in our progress, (I had really big plans), we have been spending time so our place looks a lot better, (in as much as there is evidence of the effort.)

Very timely, too, in New Zealand this winter, a gorgeous, magnificent, inspiring, hunky former All Black, former coach of Italy and current coach of Japan, (rugby union, folks) named John Kirwan fronted a national initiative called The Journal to help folks like me.

In the six-week online course, the most interesting thing I learned was right-brain problem-solving. Apparently it's not just me who feel overwhelmed by things we should do and end up doing none of them, but it's one of the symptoms. (And if you have acute anxiety as well, it's a double whammy in this respect.) So one of the exercises was to come up with out-of-the-left-wing, right-brain solutions to our problems we wish to tackle.

In my case, I had picked gardening as my stay-engaged activity, but I found it hard to work in the wet, weedy areas where neighbor cats deposited organic matters. Instead, I decided to work in the nicest, tidiest part of the garden, so that some days all I had to do was to pick a few leaves, and still I knew I had one small area was tidy. But once I'm outside, naturally I'd pick a few more weeds, and some days I was outside for 15 minutes, and others, for up to five hours.

Of my symptoms, I began to recognize one as a clear warning bell a couple of years ago; sometimes after a few days of blurred vision, I try to lift my eyebrows. I don't know if you know this, but if you've been to a South Pacific island, you may have encountered a special greeting of lifting the chin quickly, tilting the head back slightly, and raising eyebrows as if say "I see you, hello." When I'm depressed, my vision becomes not only blurry but narrower and I need to lift my eyelids to see better, so I keep doing this South Pacific greeting to my four walls.

My vision had been blurry all week, and on Tuesday, I caught myself greeting the walls again. On Wednesday, I went out and started weeding an area that didn't make sense in the scheme of things, but I recognize the sign. I couldn't finish the work, so expected to on Thursday, but in spite of the even lovelier early spring weather, I ended up not going outside on Thursday because I couldn't decide in what order to do things that day, and I ended up descaling teapots, a kettles and a coffee machine! And I felt really bad about not finishing the weeding, because I knew it was such an easy task. Instead, I decided to concentrate on the headache and the vertigo, and missed the pattern-making class.

Came Friday morning and I felt nauseous and missed drawing, but I was determined not to waste another day. It was supposed to rain, so I wasn't planning on gardening, but the sun came out. I wove a little, mended a pesky warp and resleyed, and worked in the garden in the afternoon. Ben came home and he wanted to get takeaway food, but I cooked a salmon pasta dish, and because there was no good TV so we went to bed super early and read for hours.

The narrowing of the vision comes not early on but well into my down cycle, but at least I recognize it for what it is, and when I do, at least this time, I was able to enact on the information. So, on my "sick" day, I managed to weave, mend a pesky warp, garden, and then get started on a huge novel. Not being productive on well days, well, that's another issue.

Normal bloggers may post fabulous plant/flower pics shot in great light and at the plants' best, but I like these taken Friday night after I had a long hot shower, when dusk suddenly turned yellow and the world looked strange but not at a bad end.

A crab apple tree that we've had in a dark spot first, then in a tub, since around 1997. It needs to move out into the ground; it died three times, and last summer I thought it was really gone, but I saved it just in case, and it didn't disappoint.

Tiny white sasanqua under our glorious cherry tree - some years this is the only thing blooming in winter. This baby needs trimming after all the flowers are gone.

Our Miniature Kowhai had its best ever year this year, branches bowed with huge clumps of flowers and at times a tui or two hanging upside down sucking its honey. However, it, too, must be trimmed hard because it's quite big now and overshadowing everything around it, including an unidentified yellower-flower bush that is Ben's favorite. "Miniature" in this case only meant "not huge, like it's supposed to be, as in taller than your house."

One of the new acquisitions; it's supposed to have big blue flowers, but I haven't studied the tag too carefully because then I would build up unrealistic expectations, particularly as regards colors.

Friday, August 20, 2010

"Depth" in the Design Process

If I had wireless or even wired Internet in the bedroom, I would have stayed in bed gazing at Hand/Eye today, but I don't, so I got up to check emails, and accidentally wandered into the dangerous territory known as the weavers' blogs. There I found Cally's wonderful recording of how she arrived at her latest warp wrapping.

It just so happens that my Ali chapter this month has been on colors, and even though the exercises in the book are interesting, or new to me, I have been pondering the fact my experiments always feel one- or two-dimensional; that is, not quite pursued to the depth which just might yield mind-blowingly unexpected results. But I haven't been able to think of how to delve into further experimentation, be it lines and forms, (i.e. pebbles; still working on it;) or colors. I've never been a big-picture or outside-the-square-typed thinker and as regards designs, I seem to require explicit showing or explanation to assist me in being innovative (!!!). I can follow instructions, but even this took years ignoring the agitation caused by not knowing the end results ahead of starting.

I appreciate Cally's post not only because it's pretty, (always helps), but because it is instructive in showing me one way of working with colors. Luckily, I am also quite incapable of copying, so after I am shown a method/technique, I can use the exact method to come with quite different results, or modify methods to suit me. Or, in this case, read color theories of Goethe, Albers, or Kandinsky.

In the "making things" department of my life, I feel even more of a man than a woman than in other areas.

I've been off kilter all week - mild symptoms of a cold and not-so-mild ones of the stupid-and-confused. The worst part has been my eyes not being able to focus. I missed Jill's pattern workshop last night and drawing this morning. I might try weeding, cutting up magazine pictures, or gazing at an Itten book today.

Have a lovely weekend.

EDIT: Thank you, Cally, for this link to Dot's post about color theories and practices.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

India Flint Eco Dye Workshop has Places

November 27 - December 1, 2010, at Lud Valley, Nelson, New Zealand, (this is not a residential course, ) has two places if you are interested. Some details I have, but the most reliable is to contact my friend Jo. Email me and I will forward it to Jo.

She will be running The Windfall Wayfarer workshop.

Monday Wasn't Bad

Yesterday I assisted Lloyd, Josh and Deb hang Impressions and Arts Council Nelson Art Awards at Refinery ArtSpace. Previously this local show was limited to the Nelson region but had a photography section; this year, they've expanded to include neighboring Marlborough but cut out photography.

I always enjoy helping hang an exhibition; I learn much about running exhibition spaces, administration work, hanging techniques and aesthetics. I like also having individual work explained to me by Lloyd, as more and more I find my taste heading towards abstract. But as with Guild and Art Society style exhibitions, it's tricky hanging a disparate set of artworks in a community art awards show; inclusiveness leads to grass-root support, can make a big impact on some participants, and can offer great bargains, but critical standards and visual cohesiveness can go by the wayside. I'm glad to be just an extra pair of hands, (though a bit of a mouthy) and don't have to make decisions.

Their opening is 4PM this Saturday, August 21; it's a strange time, but allows Marborough folks make the 90-minute trip over the hill and back.

* * * * *

Last night while watching TV, I did start the wee beading project that's not really a project yet. I'm starting low-keyed and uncomplicated because the goal is to keep going, but at some point I would like to use beads along side embroidery.

The one on the right, I got started, loved the colors, but disliked straight line, I'm having a wee rethink. The one on the left, using the smallest beads on far left, is tonight's entertainment.

* * * * *

Meanwhile, an impromptu mini poll showed we are weaving in many different colors. No clear winners this time, but blues/greens marginally ahead. Good for us!

* * * * *

A year ago when I was quite sick Dot wrote to me and we've corresponded almost daily since; I've saved 296 emails from her, and after the medication started (and stopped), my life has been pretty good, I've been more productive than I'd been in a while. Thank you, Dot. And Happy Belated Birthday.

Japan Pics 5 of...: Asakusa Amuse Museum - Boro Exhibition

These are photos from brochures I picked up; I haven't seen the words "don't reuse" so I am praying it's OK to post because I feel terrible about my confusion. (And, sorry, not a good day to edit photos; I can't see anything.)

This page is cited as an excerpt from the Boro book mentioned below.)

I might rework on these photos when my eyes are working better.

Looking at the dates, the exhibition must have been open when we visited, but Mom and I have no recollection of the room nor the exhibits. What I do remember, however, is there was no exhibition catalogue, but the museum was promoting this book instead.

So, enough of me trying to play guide about Japanese textiles and leading you down the wrong path. If I'm tempted to do this again, I post pictures only. Normal transmission resumes; more of cloths I like, pictures I like, and my ranting.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Japan Pics 4 of ...: Asakusa Amuse Museum - Tsugaru Kogin Exhibition (Not Boro)


Near the entrance was the one piece we were allowed to touch. And this one was as stiff as it looks.
The camera could not focus on this one, but most of the surface is covered.
I tried to capture the B side.
Contrast and saturation modified so you can possibly get a better view of the B side.
I believe you've been looking at the B side of this piece.
My favorite, blue on blue. I can't remember if this one was faded, or the floodlight made this piece look thus. I suppose if it were dark, one could not see the work as well, but this was hard to capture.
Regarding the prevalence of the diamond shape, please see below. There were many, many more garments.

Looking back I find it a little disingenuous for the museum to have so many lovely cotton textiles, when Mr Tanaka repeatedly stressed in his book that linen was the predominant fiber and cotton arrived late and only to the wealthier parts. Furthermore, the name "boro" stipulates they are old and used, and I don't remember seeing many of those. I don't think the pieces in the exhibition constitute best examples of rag, work wear created and worn by farmers and fisherfolk. Mr Tanaka described in his book how many old folks, particularly women, gave him the best pieces that were saved for special occasions and were seldom/never worn. Most of these looked to belong to the latter category. And I've never seen quilts, as in flat, rectangular sheets, not garments or thick garments used as bedding at night, but this could be because my exposure to antique Japanese textiles is limited.

Amuse is not an academic, historical/anthropological museum, but a entertaining place with a textile focus, and one of the few places in Japan that allows photographing, so I won't hold any of these against them. Plus, I believe these cotton is easier to work on, ergo better show off the styles and the techniques of the makers, therefore make a better exhibition. Enough said.

ERRATA: I dug up additional flyers I picked up at Amuse in February. I apologize, as I should have done this before I posted.

Garments in these photos above are from the Tsugaru Sashiko Kimono Exhibition. In Aomori Prefecture, there are two styles of saashiko stitching, Tsugaru Kogin and Nambu Hishizashi. Here are some links:

Tsugaru Kogin vs Nambu Hishizashi page: top links shows Kogin motifs; bottom, Hishizashi.
Tsugaru Kogin official-looking website.
Image search results for Tsugaru Kogin stitching - not sure if all tags are accurate.
Image search results for Nambu Hishizashi stitching.

The things that got me so confused is that in their current special exhibition, they lumped both styles and calling them both "sashiko" (which is the name of the technique), which tells me the museum is targeting overseas visitors.

Larger versions of my pics are posted here. If you want any, please ask. Most are rather blurry and have been tampered with so you can see the stitching pattern.

The "Boro Exhibition", to be honest, I don't remember seeing six months on. It could have included the area I called "Permanent Collection" in the previous post. I'll try to post the photos from these flyers later today.

I do sincerely apologize for my confusion. Major blushing happening here.

Japan Pics 3 of ...: Asakusa Amuse Museum Permanent Collection

Among the photographs I haven't shown you from my trip home in Jan/Feb this year are a few from Tokyo Asakusa Amuse Museum I mentioned recently. I checked my notes, and it turns out when Mom and I visited there, the Boro Exhibition was on. So here are some photos, from Boro as well as from their permanent collection. (Visit date was February 12, 2010.)

Exterior. Amuse is in a seedy part of Tokyo, which makes it a little exciting, and a little weird. I'll tell you more about it later.

The museum houses, among other things, a big collection of Ukiyoe prints. They are strewn all over the building, mostly in dark stairways and hallways, and all my photos came blurry. There is a short but very interesting video on how to read Ukiyoe prints. This one, I loved the fabric they used on the mat.

2-shaft, one-treadle "floor" looms where the cloth beam works much the same as backstrap looms were set up for rag weaving demonstration. Behind, you can see some pieces for sale.

A cute young staff demonstrating weaving. This young thing didn't have a clue what she was doing, and it was painful to observe. In addition, their costume is totally wrong in the context; this is a more modern, going-out outfit.

The woman on the right I would describe as team leader; she competently answered all questions, and suspecting Mom and I knew something about weaving, told us out out right all female staff were sent north to learn weaving and a few other things over the summer months in preparation for the museum's November 2009 opening. She gave us insights into the origins of this museum and the Tanaka collection.

The following are a few pieces from their permanent Tanaka collection; these were displayed in a most attractive way, but the rooms were very dark so you have to excuse my blurry photos. (I don't use flashes in public.)

Farmer or fisherman's outer garment made of grass and other natural fibers. I can't remember the ornate woven part at the top, but this region did not have access to cotton for a long time, so I assume it is linen.

Back-pack style bag. I cannot remember the fiber content of the textile remnants woven in the top half.

Bag or garment detail. Most probably cotton, because among other things, linen in this region was never dyed with Indigo.

Sashiko-embroidered cotton garment detail (?) This is possibly the only item I shot from the "Boro" exhibition, but don't quote me on it.

Special occasion outfit with a yarn-embroidered panel attached to a linen skirt, according to this blog.

Mr Tanaka helped collecting and ordering new garments for the eighth and last segment of Kurosawa Akira's 1990 films "Dreams".  Reproduction of Kurosawa's image sketches for the costumes. This was the biggest find for me in the museum; I love the vibrancy of the drawings, and this last segment is about a funeral.

About the seediness; the museum also houses, for want of a better term, a cabaret on the top floor. From what we read, the young women who demonstrate weaving during the day "perform" and serve drinks at night. It's a uniquely Japanese mix of sublime and the ridiculous; Mom of course expected the worst and was quite worked up about it. I have no idea how interesting or bad it might be.

The museum is a Japanese textile-lover's heaven. Don't let me scare you off; but I'd rather you know.

It Came Down to Less Than a Dollar

And so it was a good ending to the week. But I digress.

Thursday night's pattern making class was about fitting; we worked in pairs fitting the toile of skirt blocks of our partner. I paired with tall Lana, which was nice for me because I'm so short, and to move around adjusting the darts and the sides was almost at eye level. It took a long time adjusting the darts and the sides little bit at a time, but with lots of Jill's help, I think Lana's block had a really nice fit. When my time came, the task was more onerous for Lana, but it turns out it was compounded by the fact I'm so asymmetrical I a whole body pattern.

Looking at the other students, I couldn't help appreciating how fabulous everybody's toile fitted; then I looked at myself in the mirror and, ugh, I'm still the short barrel with a piece of calico around my middle, or, more like a fat, TP'ed tree! I keep reminding myself it's people shaped like me who needs made-to-fit patterns and clothes, but sometimes it's hard to stay upbeat.

I wanted to photograph this so I can imitate. One of the great things about going to Jill's pattern workshops is she shares lots of hints and tips about running a design/garment business. Whilst that's not what I'm aiming for, (I want clothes that fit me!) I like picking up these small tips.

This pin cushion is a piece of felt shaped like a small belt with a Velcro at the back; it tapes around the bridge of the sewing machine; the middle of the belt has a small pouch with bits of wool. Jill says not to put fabric scarps, because they deflate too easily, but to use wool - knitting yarns, fleece, anything, but nothing too greasy. This is so handy for me because I have a habit of pinning pins and needles on the left shoulder area of whatever I happen to be wearing and then forgetting about them.

* * * * *

Friday the 13th, it was raining buckets. Drawing was OK; enough said. Jo gave me a lift home, and stayed to look at my stash, looms and some of my past drawing. And we exchanged How We Met Our Men stories. I love Jo, but a little more now that I know how she met Dave.

* * * * *

After Jo left, I wanted to weave, so I went downstairs to weave some more shibori practice swatches, at the same time try to find out more about Ronette's dye urn, which has lived in my house for "a while" now.

The urn is 50cm tall on the outside and 46cm on the inside, and 46cm in diameter. I'm not exactly sure how much water it holds, but you can easily bathe a toddler in it. I put in three buckets full, which came to slightly less than half the height of urn. More important to me, if I were to stick whole woven pieces in, I could easily put five or six small pieces, 3 mid-sized ones, or one or two large one, and comfortably mix the content. With my new PVC pipes, I could let stand three or four pole-wrapped items.

Outside, it has a cord that needs plugging in, an outlet/tap (??) like a Zip to let out the liquid, and a switch with three settings. I started with cold tap water (11C); setting LOW took 90 minutes to get half the urn full of water to 36.5C; MEDIUM an additional hour to get it to 88C, and then minutes for the water to boil at HIGH.

Ben will build me a tiny caddy on wheels with brakes, so I can work with the urn at the entrance of the garage, where I can discard the waste liquid directly to our sewage, but I need to read up on whether I can treat the waste acid dye liquid to water plants. (Not veggies, even if all the books and websites in the world says I can.) It would also be interesting to compare the dye results against the black-plastic-bag-in-the-Nelson-sun method this summer.

* * * * *

While the water was toiling and troubling besides me, I was semi-merrily weaving my swatches. Semi-merrily because a few warps broke, and though at first I was repairing each conscientiously, I got sick of not being able to build a rhythm so after 45cm they went unfixed. Each swatch will be between 50 to 70cms, so I figured I'd fix the broken warps each time I start to weave a new swatch.

Then, I noticed one of the shafts weren't lifting, again! I naturally suspected 7, but this time it was 11. (I wrote here roughly how my Big Loom setup works, and then what I thought was the same problem this time here.) Ben was home so he tightened the screw with thread locker and we tried lifting the shafts, and lo, this time nothing was lifting and the software stared back at us with a blank expression of "Huh??"

We checked all screws, all connections, electric and air, vacuumed the solenoid compartment, rebooted the computer, the system failed, and repeated the cycle about three times, when Ben noticed a tiny light on the black box not lighting up. He thought the fuse had blown, and it had, well one of the two had; I didn't know he's replaced the fuse once or twice before in the seven years I've owned this loom.

Exactly how this looms works is, like the latest nutrition information, something I try not to think about in specific terms. Knowing how flimsy and potentially fragile my setup can be scares me; the loom maker passed away, and the then-student who wrote the program that translates my wif files into lifting motions, well, there's no guarantee I can track him down, so I keep hoping someone in Marlborough can always track down his mother.

I dreaded looking into buying a purpose-built computer-operated loom with a huge price tag. For now, though, a 6-for-$5.98 fuse fixed the problem. We could have paid less, but they were out of the cheaper option.

I have a floor loom with four shafts; table looms with eight and 16 shafts, and a rigid heddle. None of these require power or any electronic parts, so I can always weave. But once one is spoiled with the relatively easy option like mine, the craft of weaving feels slightly less elegant and nostalgic, and slightly more industrial and annoying.

Anyway, for now; phew.