Thursday, December 31, 2015

On Blogging

Seth Apter asks about once a year what social network platform we use/enjoy, and for which purpose if different; I confirm every time I like writing and reading blog posts because I learn what I/you think, worked something out/prefer/like/love, and what we made with our hands, in some depth. It's better thought out, I'm long-winded, and I don't like small talk so blogs are best for me. But there seems to be platforms to suit every conceivable purpose/sentiment/flavor out there nowadays and I can't help noticing, just like in real life, old friends are not necessarily hanging out in the same old places, and there is fewer discourse where I am.

I ponder the whole "online presence" thing like everybody else: wasting time vs seeing trends and collecting information, security worries, my compulsion to overshare, and knowing where my friends hang out. (Gadget device comes into play for some, but I dislike learning how to use, and forking out money on, hardware that'll be outdated in months, so I leave it to Ben to declare something of mine dead beyond any doubt.)

It's not as though I have a lot happening; I have two weaving blogs, one in English and one in Japanese; a Flickr account used mostly to gaze at others' photos once in a blue moon; a Facebook profile but not a weaving page; and, gee, I thought I deleted my Weavolution but it's still alive. There's the Wordpress account so I can leave comments; no Twitter, no Instagram, not even Pinterest. I deleted Etsy, Ravelry, and LinkedIn I only clicked on invites long ago but didn't properly create an account. I resurrected Google+ only because there was something funny with my Picasa, which existed only for my blogs. (And by now, Mama will be going, "HUH??")

My life is more interesting when I weed less and weave more. Plus writing about weaving is good therapy as I can soften the garden sensory overload by analyzing/verbalizing what I do/think in weaving. During depression, it was good to try to concentrate on this part of my life rather than being overwhelmed by the whole. But most of all I'm chronicling how I'm spending this life.

In the past I noticed me on a kind of a persona, that of a host(ess) as it were, of a party here, because you all were visitors to my blog. Likewise I felt like a guest when visiting yours, although more often like a student. But that's changed, too; with fewer discourse, and me spending more time weeding than weaving for a couple of years, I'm settling comfortably into my grumpy old hermit weaver spot. My thoughts more private, or simply examined, I'm not sure; at least not important enough to me to record. I've also become more aware of the negative side of the Internet and social media, and I'm starting to feel too old to be bothered, rather than amiss about not staying informed.

I have no idea where I'm going with this. As with all the other times I considered chucking my blogs, I will probably sit on the decision awhile and then forget I was sitting on it. Mom once told me continuity is part of talent. I'm a good starter but not good at.... what was it?

I've my tenth blog birthday coming up. That's what's been on my mind. May there be harmony and peace on earth next year.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

On Cooking and Remembering

A few books and thoughts this year made me revisit this.

I used to love cooking and I might have even been not so bad, even though my family hounded me for years. I kept ignoring them, until years later I suddenly stopped. I can't remember when or if there was anything leading up to it, but I stopped cooking. I still liked reading cookbooks, but the act was left to Ben and takeaway establishments. Then some yeaers later I picked it up again; and again I can't remember when or why, but I did, and now I enjoy simple seasonal, gluten-free, vegetarian, or fussy slow meaty winter dishes. Or just cleaning and reorganizing my spices and herbs. And we like cooking together.

It was a most strange episode taking place over several decades, and I see how it happened only in retrospect.

This past May, Joan had her annual writing retreat and I really wanted to go but couldn't because of schedule conflicts. Extraordinarily she had another in October and I was determined to go, except I couldn't. I couldn't think of anything I wanted to write and after years of attending, I wanted a focus, a purpose, other than a pleasurable whipping up of a first draft of yet another short story.

After I left the path to academia/writing, after I became a free-lance weaver, I worked hard to make my life simpler, and subsequently things I knew and could write about became fewer and mainly autobiographical. For the last few years I noticed I can't remember much of my past, childhood, student days, work life or travels, except perhaps a dozen episodes. Back in October, I couldn't make sense of this vast vacuum and I couldn't focus.

I used to have great memory; horrible before exams, but treasure trove of folks' birthdays, anniversaries, maiden names, and the many episodes of their everyday lives, all far more interesting to me than history books.  In a normal family, I would have been designated family chronicler, but not in mine; my parents couldn't hide their mild distaste for my penchant for retelling, often suspicious of my making things up. Pertaining to my own stories, they scolded me for skewed, paranoid points of view. As I grew up, as they got tired of repeating the same lecture, their shorthand to stop me became, "That didn't happen," "It didn't happen like that," "You remember incorrectly," and "That's a lie." Except I knew I was right.

Even just a few years ago, I recollected when we moved into our family home in 1970, my parents told me behind my grandfather's next door was a wild bird sanctuary. I still see my parents sitting across the dining room table telling me I made that up, that they never said such a thing. Except I knew I was right because I learned the word and concept of "sanctuary" on that occasion. And for the last years they lived in the old house, there was even a sign up the hill.

And yet, and yet. And it's not only because of aging. I'm less sure of my certainties and declare too often, too loudly, I could be wrong. I feel less confident about my past existence, of how much I know myself, of whether I know myself accurately, in case I've been wrong all this time. It's a little like rubbing my eyes because my extremities look blurred and I wonder if I've experienced phantom pain. So I rely on things outside myself, my weaving, because those I know I made, I remember how I made them. And what I might forget, I record here.

Sad, eh.

When I turned 40, when I turned 50, I told myself to stop fighting and blaming my parents for what hasn't worked out in my life; I was desperate to have  some years of peace and harmony in our remaining years. Then came a decade of mild-to-moderate depression and counseling, and I took them seriously; I read, studied, prepared in writing before each counselling session and attempted to learned about me, so I could explain to medical professionals so they could cure me. Immediately. Except in retrospect it was a whole lot of looking for causality in a most childish manner on my part, and not a lot of prescription on theirs. There is family history of depression, so it was inevitable I went searching, and I take solace this was also meant to be part of my path, but it was heck of a detour.

I take responsibility for who I am. But I can't stop being influenced by my past, and the people in it. I'm not the kind of person who can stop investigating, searching, wondering. And I find myself as interesting a subject as van Gogh, because I happen to have a bit more inside information on me.

* * * * *

A sample of books I read this year that lead me to thinking about this cluster are:

"The Art of Memoir", by Mary Karr; she covers the inaccuracies of our remembering in a general way.

"Uncle Tungsten", by Oliver Sacks; on his childhood and obsession about science. I've just got his "On the Move: A Life" which may dispel his fairly tale ideal of childhood family life. I was terribly envious of his encouraged, intellectual upbringing; although I grew up on a college campus, my own family wasn't intellectual in the sense nobody but I read, and we were more often commanded rather than trained to think/solve problems. Simultaneously I was happy we didn't have a family business, as Sacks and brothers were expected to become doctors.

"Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women", by Harriet Reisen; on growing up "knowing" one is not good enough; Alcott apparently kept writing in her journals she needed to be a better person. it reminded me of my constant writing "I need a new personality" from third grade on.

"The Writing Class" and "The Writers' Festival" by Kiwi author Stephanie Johnson; good funny read. Hers was the very first writing workshop I attended, two months after we came to New Zealand, a month before I met Joan. They were entertaining reads if you like writing classes, writers' festivals, or private lives of authors.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Or So I Thought

We've been having productive days and blob out days. We did finish stacking the first lot of wood, touched up the paint on the house, had another photo session one overcast morning, (it got darker and darker,) and I finished threading the long-awaited navy blue merino and got overwhelmingly underwhelming samples. It's been so hot I've had no garden time, which I honestly miss, and a couple of toms and zucchinis are flowering and bearing fruits in seedling mix. And then Ben installed Windows 10 on my laptop, which has been causing a variety of intermittent problems, most annoyingly off-and-on Wifi. All First World problems.

I feel so unmotivated except to weave the navy pieces. But I must make up two parcels to post, go see Andrea at the Suter, make up my mind about my pop-up shop, ring for the second lot of firewood, stack them, get a skip again and throw out rubbish, clean the house occasionally, et cetera. I keep thinking I have "two months" before I go to Japan, but in fact it's 42 days, so I need to get a bit more move on.

In the past, I almost never contacted anyone in Japan, cousins, former colleagues, let alone my convent school classmates with whom I haven't had any contact since July 1974. Part of it was of course I was often home for a reason, weddings, births, deaths and old parents. In fact in the first 21 years I had dinner with one former colleague, and saw three cousins who visited Mom after Dad died. But the main reason is I have been and still am totally embarrassed about my weight and how unsophisticated my life is compared to how I remember everybody else to be. And I dress shabbily because all I do nowadays are weeding and weaving, not to mention Nelson is casual to begin with, even for New Zealand, while my friends are cosmopolitan career women in the main.

Facebook makes you think differently. I have been contacting a few former colleagues, (many around my age, give or take five years,) and even classmates, to meet up. And what I'm being told is most everybody is available because they have finished raising kids, and many are retired. Not having kids and having switched life "codes", I hadn't noticed that we are reaching a milestone of life. I'm looking forward to seeing them.

Right, pics.
Our "new" kitchen chairs work well as backdrops to smaller pieces.
And then the sample. I don't know why I was so underwhelmed but I was. It's been tricky balancing the warp size, EPI, different weft sizes and floats. I worked on the draft all day today and came up with two workable drafts, though.
After we pruned a big camellia tree rather severely, I've put in a mix of sun- and shade-lovers. This is usually my white hellebore and violet area, and relatively weed-free, but this year there are bergamots, as in Earl Gray tea, for the first time, and the overcrowded lettuce-like leaves at the left are teasels, which need to be spread out more in the autumn if possible.  
I made humus, (roasted red pepper, pistachio, and garlic,) the way Ben likes, but he's not crazy about them so all for me, which has been a little too much. Still, good.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Summer Holiday is Going Great

Ben gets up excruciatingly early during holidays, but I'm trying to keep up with him. Not getting up at the same time, heaven forbid, but scandalously early. He takes his time making espresso, we drink them leisurely, then we cook breakfast. And then we work just a little bit on the mammoth list of things need doing around the house.

This morning Ben cleaned the barbie and I restacked the firewood that fell two nights ago. Then we stacked twelve more garden bags full of firewood; Ben has to carry them up a flight of stairs, turn 90 degrees to the left, go up a few more steps, walk across a concrete patio, then walk up a few more steps and dump them. I stack them. Sounds a little unfair but both take about the same amount of time. (I damaged my hand working alone some years ago; the logs are too fat for me to grab with one hand and I extended the mussels at the bottoms of my thumbs too far; no weaving for months!) Described this way, our place sounds huge, but it's not. We just don't like this job. We'll finish this load on Christmas day if all goes to plan.

We need between two and three loads per winter. As we progress, the later loads are stacked closer to the steps so Ben's part will be easier but I have to stand in the scorching sun so it's not that unfair. We think it's time to give a thought to our heating strategy. We can have one load and light the fire for entertainment, but don't want to rely mainly on the wood burner in the future. (Although... our burner heats up the hot water and I cook soup on it in the winter. Great, eh.)
Then we made Ben's too-much-organic-home-grown-lime-juice cheesecake. Today we put a spoonful of blueberry jam a friend in Maine, USA sent us.

After lunch, I had planed to attempt photographing again. But yesterday I worked half a day in vein trying to base the next project on the draft I made for the pink and purple pieces, so I wanted to have another look. Three hours and much talking to myself out loud later, I altered the threading and came up with a couple of drafts I might sample.

Here's one of the drafts I used in the cotton pieces.
And this is one of the candidates.

My starting point, as usual, was to make something completely new that doesn't look like anything I have ever woven. And I wanted to make really big designs using very skinny yarns. But I saw immediately that this draft fits the commission brief so wonderfully and I knew I had to weave it to at least show the client. Besides, this will be woven in navy merino with probably wool or silk in "sympathetic" colors, so it will have a different mood to the cotton pieces.

I felt humbled to have this opportunity to work on this commission, and to have a pretty good chance of making something the giftee can treasure, if I may say so myself. And I felt grown up about recognizing the merits of this draft, instead of pursuing my own satisfaction. So, a good day.  

Saturday, December 19, 2015

That Wavelength Thing

Late morning, I realized I could do anything I want to today, and not being able to come up with draft ideas, I decided to work on my online pop-up shop. (I go back and forth between pop-up "shop" and pop-up "store". Ben's more Kiwi than American when it comes to word choices and he voted for "shop" so "shop" it is. It does rhyme (?) better with "up" so I can live with it.)

Although a little unusual, I decided to list maybe three pieces at first and add more at a leisurely pace in the next couple of weeks as I fine-tune the format/setup. But I wanted new photos.

It's always baffled me how different the photos look on the camera monitors vs my laptop, and between software, so Ben recalibrated my monitor, (which shows only 60% of sRGB colorspace), which made everything look so yellow/orange. Even my favorite gray pieced looked pale gray-green, like our living room walls in the afternoons, and Ben's face on on the wallpaper looked flushed! So I asked him to turn it back, to the all-too-blue default. But now I wonder what my photos look like on your screens, if they are overcorrected, too yellow. One of Ben's screens apparently shows over 90% of the aforementioned thingie, while his tablet shows 98%. Both are ideal for editing photographs, because that's how Ben chooses his gadgets, (and I look at max simplicity, min weight and reasonably low price,) and for me to at least check my photos on. Goodness, the banner on top of this blog, the gray "pillar" piece, looks a little green/brown on his tablet.

So I got discouraged and ate half a bag of potato chips and am now watching sitcom reruns. I'll decide what to do re. photos but hope to put up 11 pieces before the end of the year and keep the shop open until the end of January. Crazy timing, I know, but it's a start for me and a practice for hopefully many more pop-up openings. And I'm declaring it here so I can't back down.

Here are some unedited pics for your weekend laughs. I dragged Ben's chair to the front hallway and experimented with indirect light though the corrugated plastic roof while the sun was on the whole very bright.
White balance is one of the most difficult for me, and my newer camera has so many choices. Unless I'm outside and the light is obvious, I rely on "color temperature" or "auto white balance"; the former yields warmer colors than I see, while the latter, cooler. Here the colors are all washed out.  
In some software this looks like a neon sign of a smelly disreputable establishment. I didn't notice bubble wrap saying hello.
An experiment in showing how one piece looks predominantly purple or green depending on the light. The colors are washed out again.
Trying a moody shot, which also looks neon-y in click/view photo gallery software.
And then sometimes I get freakishly true colors, in some software. Aye yay yay.

In terms of software, I'm dependent at minimum on the camera monitor, the click/view photo gallery, my photo editor, and the web browser. That's four. I've got to come up with the simplest step/s and combination of equipment to show as close to true colors in the shop.

At least I've got an idea for drafts.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Nothing to See Here

I dithered on Wednesday and Thursday, but I did get my taxes done by lunch today, and though half a day late, "our" summer holiday has started.

It was a slow financial year anyway, April 2014-March 2015; the main events were the drawing exhibition and my trip to Australia, which consumed my life from May to September, but otherwise I wove and weeded. Usually I have about 250 lines in my spreadsheet, give or take 30, but this year I had 160 and the current tax year is going to have fewer. But goodness gracious me, accounting was simpler pre-Internet shopping, there is no way I could do the whole lot in one or two days as before.

Before I got started I tried to synchronize/backup two hard drives and for yet-unknown reason the copying failed partially, (always more annoying than completely,) and I lost some files. Among them was the file in which I recorded time spent gardening. It had been developed into a somewhat "sophisticated" set of numbers; so far this year I gardened 360 odd hours, so if I slept 8 hours a day, I would have spent over 6% of my waking time weeding. Not that it means much, a garden is only as pretty as it is on a given moment, but keeping a record helped me get out more at the start. I can let it go now; I'll garden for the intrinsic pleasure of it. (In unison: big laugh.)  

Tax time is like Lent; I deffer doing anything fun, interesting, or meaningful. The advantage here is I shouldn't have to wait 40 days but just get on with the job, but for example this year it was closer to 50 since I first shuffled some papers.

So during Lent, I've wanted to play with paper and paint, perhaps just apply colors, perhaps a small series, perhaps just filling all the pages in a sketchbook. I've also wanted to revisit simple print-making, it having been my favorite in school art class; and needle point and embroidery, both longtime favorites until I met weaving. I'm looking for a long-term, destination-unknown, non-weaving project, in addition to all others I'm supposed to be working on, active or dormant.

I'm a robust starter, but a failed finisher; this morning I saw a video on Facebook in which someone said the difference between successful and unsuccessful people was how much they finish what they started. Well, guilty as charged. Today, there's nothing to see here.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Blown Away

Not much has been happening, partly because I had cosmetic work done on the house, but mostly because I've been so distracted by the wind I can't do any activity requiring thinking. The mundane gets done, so the house is relatively and consistently clean; not only our clothes but towels and bedding get laundered frequently, (and are hung inside to provide some moisture albeit imperceptibly;) and I've not accumulated ironing.
With 2.5 repeats to get this piece over 150cm, I decided my life is too short to continue weaving on this warp so I cut it off. I had to unpick the last half repeat, as well as the plain weave at the start to make the piece symmetrical, so it's 142cm plus fringes. As I foresaw, it is a cute, pretty, gentle piece, and I'm quietly amused/amazed I wove this much on a hand loom. The broken warps were numerous only after 110cm, so I left the warp on the loom; I have to decide if I'll have another go or throw the rest into the compost bin.
Why fight good taste for a chance to get a pleasant surprise, or a rude one which is always possible, right? The third piece has the mocha brown weft that was popular in the last post. It obliterates the coolness of the achromatic warp, but the lovely texture I will get from these scaly wool won over the sharpness of the blue weft candidates I like. (The colors are pretty accurate in the last post; here, not at all, though I like the warp values in this pic better.)
The last bit, slightly shorter than what I need for a shawl/scarf, is going to be a fabric with three browns, same as the last long piece from the last similar warp, but I have enough undyed also in case I run out of browns and have to change the color schemes part of the way.

Two things I hoped to have finished by now are: 1) design/draft for the fine navy merino on the big loom. I've been doing some research as one of the pieces will be a special B-Day commission, but I seem to be reading the same paragraphs over and over without taking in much, and I've gazed at a blank draft on the screen many nights, but nada; 2) tax returns, of course. I got started early in December, I've been mentally working it since the start of November, but no real progress was made. Ben finishes work for the year tomorrow, and I'd love it if I can finish it tomorrow, too. Today looks promising, the wind is not galey, we have some clouds when I started this post, (though the rain forecast probably won't come true,) and the temps is almost "cold", so I'm not going as crazy.

I haven't been outside as often as I like because of the wind and all I see are the weeds, the seedlings still not in the ground, (because the temperatures have been low, some seedlings have been unusually slow in appearing, but also because of the wind, if I have them all in one place rather than planted all over it's easier to water;) about half of my sunflowers either dug up by birds or broken by the winds, and lo, aphids on my beloved hellebores. Aphids love hellebores but I never had any for the first 15 years and I surmised the wind and the many garlic I plant in between and don't harvest did the trick, but alas, I have 15-years' worth now.

Still, there are small things that weren't here before, and when I discover them I tell myself my efforts of the last two years have not been all in vein. Here are some reminders to myself:  
We had to prune our two miniature kowhai trees, (one is not finished,) and to be on the safe side I saved some seedpods and tried germinating. Out of the gazilion,  I have at least four seedlings, but both pruned trees look healthy, too, so I'll have to find somewhere else to put them or give them away. Acanthus, on the other hand, I bought a packet of 15 seeds but only one has come up so far. And I so prefer propagating from what I have because they feel more precious, so I'll collect my own acanthus seeds this year.
Zucchinis were extremely slow to come out this year, and I had put them in the "probably dead" group, but gradually they made their appearances, and yesterday I noticed some were flowering already. They'll go into the ground as soon as I finish my tax returns.
I don't remember Mom putting in spuds in her garden when we were young but apparently she did regularly for the grandkids because it's so fun pulling them out. I didn't intend to, but we had two in the kitchen basket rearing to go so I cut them up and got between 6 and 8 (or more?) plants. I'm worried as this is not a deep-soil patch, but we'll see how it goes.
As I mentioned in a comment, cosmos to me are autumnal flowers, and incidentally Dad's favorite possibly because he was born in last September, but I mistook these seeds for marigolds this year so they have been out in force. Except they are pink. Good thing they are annuals. (I also read how easily carnations can be propagated so I'm successful I'll replace the pinks with dark reds and some whites, I think, but keep the peachy/orangy one.)
One of the endives chicory grow especially well in our shallower veg patch, but Ben doesn't like to eat them so I've been pulling them out one by one as I put in other things, like spuds. One shot up very early in the season and because it was so handsome, I left it and now in the mornings we have beautiful blue daisy-like flowers. If I can collect the seeds, (along with the last few left in the patch,) I hope to plant/move them to a flower patch. It goes especially well with the pale yellow Elena rose, which coincidentally I propagated last winter and have three more waiting to be planted.
In the past I've only bought cheap lupin seeds as soil improver but this year I got a packet of 10 seeds of dark blue ones. They are darker in their web pic, but I like mine, and I got three. The funny thing is, I don't let the soil-improver lupins flower, so I have no idea what colors they are.
I think I got three tubers of dark red lillies. I wanted another, much darker, kind but they were always sold out and I got these only because they were on sale. Two came out rather majestically and I love that I can see them from my kitchen sink. Very hard culling of alstroemeria in late winter did wonders and I have so much this year, and some I thought died have returned. But I can't stop the wind damage in the front.
I have been bringing in allergy-inducing amounts of flowers inside for over a month.
Ah, heliotropes. In the 19 years we've been in this house I don't know how many I bought. (I know, same as cyclamens, freesias, hellebores and heucheras.) They are winter-tender and sold as annuals around here, (that's what a woman in a nursery told me years ago,) and I tried to find sufficiently sunny and suitable positions and have kept a handful for a few years. Still they got choked by more robust plants, not always weeds but for e.g. one purple sage that grew over 2m sideways, and at one time I was down to three. I moved them all here two years ago, a sunny, windy-and-dry-but-easily-water-able position. I prune deadhead and prune hard and stick the cut pieces in the moist ground to propagate, and some have grown, though I've not been successful when I put them in proper soil mix in small posts.

This year, when I go outside on not-so-windy days, the scent permeates the patio, and if I have to choose one, this is what tells me my garden is being transformed, no matter how slowly, in the right direction. (This used to be a freesia patch, but birds dig out the bulbs so it was a constant fight, so I'm going to move them to a safer place and propagate more heliotropes.) To the right I have a breath-taking dark purple heliotrope but it doesn't have a scent and don't propagate well. I will keep trying, though.

There are a few more nice things in the garden, but this is enough for this morning.

EDIT: Oh, I got my tickets to Japan, too; I'm there most of Feb. I'm wondering if I can weave four more before I go.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Another One Done and Moving with the Times

I used the black and the charcoal possum/merino/silk wefts; the new piece looks a little like Ben's old, old scarf, doesn't it?
I sampled two navy wefts. The top is wool you saw on the cone; the bottom is a wool/silk knitting yarn.
I love both colors; they don't look overly blue even "in person" but makes the cloth look crisper and fresher than black wefts. Or dare I say, the white, (i.e. the lighter gray,) look whiter?
Unfortunately neither fulled enough for my intended finish; they give the warp yarns room to fluff up beautifully, but the cloth feels like airy wool held together with strings. In the left sample, between the skinny white at the top and the very thick darker gray at the bottom, I auditioned three different colors of the wool the same as the warp. (Sorry, very changeable weather today and the colors are all over the show.)

I have warp enough for one, maybe two more. Shall I use wefts from the same lot as the warp to show off the loveliness of scaly wool; walnut wefts the same as the last fabric because there are orange bits in the darker gray warp looking for friendly hues; or shall I go for one of the navy blues?

I'm taking a break from the four shaft today as I have a painter man retouching the exterior paint after the house wash. In the gust. On a ladder. Not scaffolding.
Long time ago Ben built this workshop "sound system" from car stereo parts. Because it sits right next to the 16-shaft, it had to work in spite of considerable vibration, ergo car stereo, and it's never skipped in all the years I used/abused it.

I asked him to upgrade it cheaply because my listening behavior has changed. Previously I only ever listened to one AM station, (we have a hard time receiving FM in this house, so the above picture was a joke,) and/or played CDs. But more and more I've been listening to overseas radio, Youtube, (oh, writer's talks! Museum lectures!) and MP3s including audio books, all on a laptop whose volume doesn't quite get loud enough when I'm making a racket.
So he upgraded it for me on Saturday. Here's me listening to Rai Tre. The new one is iPod ready via USB, or takes AUX input plug. (That's what he told me.) I should even be able to listen to NZ FM via the laptop. But wait.
He even found a few FM stations, in the basement!Thanks, mate!

I contemplated getting an iPod or a Smartphone as a listening device, (happy with my pre-camera cell,) but I couldn't imagine weaving with a headphone and we have a pretty big CD collection but I can't be bothered uploading and these speakers are great, so maybe this is not the tidiest setup, but it's exactly what I wanted. And leaps and bounds compared to Saturday morning.

I'm furious at myself; it appears I missed cheap fares to Japan by dithering. Usually sleeping on things when I can't decide has done wonders for my sanity and best outcomes, but where airlines are concerned, hard to say.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Various Weaverly and Unweaverly Thoughts

Today's post is based on my somewhat-daily email to Dot. These are why I don't need Morning Pages; they're usually where my daily planning starts, although more often than not I list sensible thing and then go and do the not-so-sensible. Or worse.

The wind has reached a new high/low. Instead of gales coming and going, it’s non-stop today, and we could hear the chimney vibrating from the bedroom at the other end of the house. I may have said this recently, but of all the factors of climate change, chez moi, the frequency and strength of wind, and subsequent loss of moisture, has been the strongest-felt. I am utterly distracted.

I’m in full-on weaving mode, which makes me very happy, completely ignoring outside, which is looking pretty terrible, or as per usual, depending on how you look at it.

It's been wonderful since I last tidied the stash room. I know exactly where everything is, except the few things I put in special places because I knew I would need them in the really near future. I've had to looking for them just before bedtime in a mild panic because I had planned on falling asleep with these images imprinted on my brain. Like last night.
I’ve started revisiting Summer and Winter and it’s (sic) relative(s) for the more graphic look and am reconsidering sett and fiber to make the hand better... I love twill because I like the 3D look and feel of fulled fibers, and mixing plain weave, mostly-warp, and mostly-weft areas. And I think twill's drape suits scarves and shawls. But I also feel lazy sticking to the one structure, and because I've been pondering a more graphic look, I checked different structures in half a dozen books and came back to my previous reconnaissance of tied weaves.

Interestingly I've sampled/woven S&W et al. only on small hand/table looms so I could thread and lift on a whim, and that was part of the discover/fun. The nature of the projects feel different when I contemplate bigger projects on the dobby, but I'm looking forward to the investigation. (Yeah, after planning and sampling, the actual weaving with multiple shuttles will be a, how can I put it politely, drag.)
Remember also the Friendship piece I abandoned, for the time being, before the 2012 exhibition? I've been thinking about that a lot, sorting your contributions by color, then by thickness, then tossing them all on large drawing paper, black, gray and white, to see how they fall. My initial intention/experimentation was double weave, incorporating your contributions on one side in plain weave, pick-up, and inlay showing off your yarns, while using 14 shafts on the other side for my kind of a fussy twill. I've been wondering if that was the best idea because I haven't bettered it. And again, if I'm doing fussy twill on the back, it'll have to go on the dobby to make life easier. (I have only one warp beam on the big loom so that's another potential problem, but comparatively easily solved with sticks, strings and milk jugs, I think.)

I’m also designing... a commission piece based on the giftee’s (art) work... That will most probably be in twill.  I haven't done this kind of in-depth designing in a long while so it has been special, exhilarating, and exciting, but for the time being this needs to remain a secret project.

One of the things that dropped place on my To Do list is the online shop. Again. For as long as I envisioned having one, I imagined a small, boutique-style, snobby, expensive, girly shop with specially "designed" packaging and other frills. (That was my initial intention with this blog, too. Goodness.) But what I have on hand is a disparate collection of experimental and a few nice but older pieces. In addition I've been wondering if I want to pretty up some of my swatches to sell. And then there is the pricing; I'm unwilling to undercut the galleries and folks who have bought similar pieces previously, but others I'm more than happy to let go for much less. And this mixed/messy feel is more in line with my personality and life. I haven't been able to "see" how to proceed. Maybe I can think about it in Japan and work on it after I come home.

I want to book my ticket to Japan, too, but I still can’t decide how long I’ll stay. I think it’ll be on the longer side as mom is having considerable trouble with her lower back... But if I stay long, we might get into fights. Rock/hard place. Meanwhile, I got locked out of Air New Zealand website (account) because I forgot my password and tried too many different ones. But before I go, I want to finish and sign off the tax returns, and weave five commission pieces, one of which has been waiting 2.5 short repeats to be woven for... ever. Four on two warps, so doable, but tight.

I do love just thinking about weaving. The woes of the world leave me for that duration.

P.S. NZ$ has bee behaving badly for over six months now. Meaning, my Japan trip is going to be a Lady Dog; it's put a serious cramp into my book purchases, but also, if/when I get my darned shop done, it'll be advantageous to everybody outside NZ.

Friday, December 4, 2015

You Wouldn't Believe What Mom Told Me!

Although I was glued to the telly most of yesterday, I rethreaded and started the first piece, and finished it today. The weft is a very white undyed merino bouclé, which isn't a good yarn to show off the warp's lovely wet hand, but lately I seem to be looking for layers or juxtapositions; here I have at one level different-width stripes in two values, at another the twill "squares", and on top the loops.
I had planned to use a black and dark gray possum-merino-silk in the second piece, (it makes a slightly lighter/thinner cloth than using yarns same as the weft in the weft,) then I put in a few shots of plain weave with a leftover yarn, a very icky synthetic in gazillion strands but shiny lovely navy. I love, love, love the clear appearance. Sadly I could only think of very skinny merino, cotton, or silks in this sort of navy, so as planned, I started the second piece.
Except the charcoal PMS looked and felt so much skinnier than the black, so I got out a bunch of cones to make sure both were the yarns/cones I intended. (They were.) That's when I found this big blue cone! It's lighter in value, less shiny than the icky synthetic, and a tad coarser, (NZ halfbred?) but it could work. Will the scales make up for the weft's coarseness, or will I ruin the warp?

Mom told me last night the warp yarn was mill end, and I can easily imagine lovely wool fabrics made of these. She also told me the big bag of her hand-dyed handspuns is also NZ halfbred. (The darker blue can be seen on the bench at far right, and there is also undyed, extremely pale blue, pale mid-orange, and a couple of balls of these in a mix.)

What floored me last night was that when she first started to "weave", for her first spinning project, (because although she knitted all her life, dyeing and spinning was part of weaving to her,) she bought fleece of ten sheep. TEN! When they were delivered, there was so much of it she thinks she stored them in the garden shed, then cleaned and washed all within days so the volume roughly halved and she could bring them inside the house. And it was all used up!

And she kept buying more and more but she was also productive and I don't remember there being much fleece or sliver in the old house. In fact, in her 60's and 70's, she was really prolific; I am only aware of her weaving because that is what I understand and study and discuss with her, but come to think of it, other than the set of mill end wool I'm using now, the big wool lots from her stash are all handspun.

No wonder Dad had to raise the roof by a meter so she can have humongous stash area. Perhaps I should have photographed that attic; the house was demolished some time ago to make room for multiple houses, so too late now. I have another huge lot of dark reds she made with which I'm so looking forward to making a series of wide shawls, but that's for much later.

(Also, she got rid of her Majacraft wheel. I had repeatedly asked for it, when was ready to let it go, for the last 20 years. Last week she said she sold it, though she never sells equipment; last night she said she gave it away but couldn't remember to whom. I'm pretty sure chucked it away when she moved house. Bad Mom!)

She's having lower back problems so it's been hard to thread and weave. I might go earlier rather than later so I can prepare the looms for her to make new things for her exhibition.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Not Good, Not Good, Not Good

I have had email notification on whenever someone leaves a comment from the very start. I have not changed it, but I'm receiving about one-third of the notifications. The result is, I don't notice right away if you comment, ergo the slow response. I shall be more vigilant in checking, but if all of a sudden I turn on comment moderation, this would be why. Ta.

We've had two lovely days of quiet rain part of the day, not followed by scorching sun or blustery gales. Plants are happy, but I think the ground could use a bit more, and I'd appreciate another day or two of not having to close the curtains during the day. Pretty please.
I threaded the 4-shaft and sampled. Boy, is it nice handling scaly wool. I don't like the threading so I'm going to rethread. Color is a-b-a-b so if I change the direction of the twill, all a's go one way and all b's go another. Doh! But I have too many good weft options; I see at least two achromatic pieces and one introducing another hue. The mid-light blue, I have recollections of seeing lots of winter fabric like this when I was a child, but I don't know if I really did. It sings out, "Nostalgia".

I also retied the mohair/merino knots in the last post, put it through a lukewarm vinegar rinse in lieu of washing, not wet-finishing, but again the knots came loose. I thought mixing another, sticker, fiber might work better; Dot suggested stitching them "invisibly" and I think that's what I'll try. Later.
The brown wool fabric, also in the last post, finished wonderfully, (imagine a large dog leaning on you,) and I wanted to make it into a shawl, so the crochet hook came out. I don't like poking holes into properly fulled wool fabric, and there were so many weft ends needing to be stitched, hooked, back in. Then I saw the selvedge is pretty bad, and I treated the start and the end of the fabric differently; at the start I wove plain weave with a different thick weft and wove two "sets" with the first weft; at the end I only added plain weave with the last weft. Because this is an extra-long piece, (3.20m), I could sacrifice a few properly woven rows, fold and hem. Or, weave a thinner fabric, maybe with thin merino, dye with walnuts, and cover the way some blanket edges are encased in smooth fabric. Or use as fabric.

This morning I finished putting my receipts and invoices chronologically. For tax returns. I was so pleased I lived a frugal life between April 2014 and March this year, in spite of a small drawing exhibition and a big trip to Australia. (And thanks to the generosity of my Aussie friends.) Until I realized there were websites and emails that contain a whole other set of receipts. Yikes.

Not a good news day. I don't know how it's not state-sanctioned terrorism when Western countries bomb civilians and infrastructures in non-Western countries. I won't even touch the gun issue. I think there are enough problems, climate change and natural disasters for starters, food safety, economic inequity and child poverty even in wealthy nations, without cooking up more vote-mongering travesties. These last 30 or so years prove to me our species collectively isn't interested in learning from history nor taking responsibilities for our actions.

I try to concentrate on what I can do but have a hard time focusing on one cause or region. I vote and sign petitions, try to be informed and give to victims when I can. That makes me a largely-silent majority, in effect endorsing madness. I'm feeling bad as usual I didn't choose a life helping people but I've never contemplated medicine because that's like teaching a goldfish to skydive. I do live a privileged life. In spite of my tax return complaints. And it matters not if there are more privileged folks.

Be strong, good people. Take responsibility. Don't say things you don't mean. Look on the cheerful side of things; the world is only as good as we make it. Then tell me how to be cheerful on a day like today.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Washed Again

This is a warp-end fabric from the old-fashioned scaly wool, the same warp on which I wove two wonderfully old-fashioned pieces. The weft is not as delicious as the warp or the other two pieces, but surprisingly airy, in the original undyed plus the tree browns dyed with walnut shells. Originally I had planned to make a heavy-ish fabric, (I imagined an old-fashioned winter skirt with a couple of small pleats in the front and the back,) but because this warp creates such a wonderful feel, depending on the way the piece dries I might sew the ends and make an extra-long shawl.

Although the next warp made from the same set is not as varied in hues/values, I have plenty of choices for the weft to create visual interest, so I plan to weave three or four shawls/big scarfs.
The blue piece fulled reasonably well, and is visually interesting in the way if your trains is delayed, there is plenty to observe on a cold winter platform. However, I have a new problem I have never had before.
The merino/mohair warp didn't want to hold the knots at the end of fringes and has come undone in the washing. Even though I've used this yarn in the warp twice before, I've never had this problem and at a loss as what to do. I could tighten the knots again, but I'm not confident they will hold the next time the piece is washed. Have you ever had this problem? Do you have any suggestions, please?

For now I don't have anything waiting to be washed.

We've had full-on summer weather of late. It's been annoyingly sunny, dry and hot in the sun outside, and stifling inside in the late afternoons. Even if rain is forecast, even if it looks as though rain is about to come down, rain clouds are burned off soon and we have not had good precipitation for a long while. When I weed, the ground crumbles like sand, and the soil in the veg patch looks terrible. Inside it's so terribly dry I hang laundry inside for a bit of moisture. Nelson is in for a water restriction soon.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Washed

Yesterday I felt like washing, for a change, so I washed two pieces and one long warp-end swatch.
The peach at the far end is mohair/merino warp, same as these, with a mom's salmon pink silk bouclé weft, in the same draft as the multicolor. The mohair in the warp shines while the bouclé is dull so the design appears subtly but distinctly and the A- and B- sides have different moods. It's thin, but not unsubstantial, and has a wonderful drape. It's a long piece that can wrap a thin person 1.5 times around. (Is that understandable English? You know, not just to have it on your shoulders but go around once and then some??)

To the right is from the not-tapestry cotton warp with one of Mom's silks that feel like paper or even wood shavings before washing. It's a crisp, and for the size of the threads, not exactly feather-weight, and not surprisingly with a somewhat papery drape.

Had I the presence of mind after that tapestry-technique fail, I would have woven another proper piece, but instead I wove a few fabric swatches; the orange and yellow are thick and tough and I can see bags or parts thereof being made from them. At the end I wanted to see how this cotton warp, especially the sett, reacts with fluffable merino so I used in the weft old thrums the same yarn as in the last piece.
This is the "tapestry" portion wet-finished like normal fabric. If I make a bag out of the other fabric from this warp, this could be a pocket or something.
And a closeup of merino-weft portion. One side is pronouncedly 3D, while the other is subtle. It has a strange feel, too; it's as though I feel only the cotton threads but no wool, yet different from a lace fabric. Together with the hard beating, the warp is too closely sett for merino to fluff.

I'm in a finishing-up mode, so today I'm fringing the last blue piece, may or may not wash it and one last unwashed fabric swatch, or stop talking about and weave up the cashmere on Klik.
It's Black Friday here, too; we don't even have Thanksgiving, but now we have sales in physical stores in Nelson, day after a normal working Thursday. Crikey.

Though that is not what prompted me, but because I have been thinking about it for a while, (years,) I've started working on my online store. It won't be ready in time to deliver for Christmas, but then when did I do anything just in time! (If you're interested in any in the above pic, ask me for details. Otherwise you have to stand outside my shop on your tip toes peeking.)

Thursday, November 26, 2015

blah blah House blah blah Japan

We had our house exterior washed yesterday; it's a once-in-several-years treat, but wonderful when we have it done. Our guy is skilled and knowledgeable, but he's going to retire from this business at the end of the year as he's weary of going up folks' roofs. Fair enough; he'll be missed.

Well, not just yet, because this year we're getting his mate to touch up the exterior paintwork. (Do please ring me back today!) We needed it in 2004 after we got double-glazed windows and receive quite a bit of damage. (But we were lucky; window guys defrauded so many in Nelson; we had a payment plan so the finance company had to get us windows. I didn't have head space for damaged exterior then, and we didn't have any money leftover.) Mr House Wash is coming back to do the windows after the paint dries.

After Ben went to Japan once and I twice in 2013, and I to Oz in 2014, we haven't traveled, which is why we can afford "routine" maintenance this year; so far we had tree cutters, two loads of skip, (3rd to come later I hope,) a new vacuum cleaner, and house wash and paint.

I love that my house is ever-so-slowly getting tidier. Of course I'd love it more if one day I woke up to a tidied/washed/polished/repaired house. Still, the eight years I had mild-to-moderate depression, I had stuff "temporarily stored" everywhere in plain sight because I just couldn't think of what to do with them. Since late 2011-ish, (it wasn't like a cold so I only knew months/years later I'd been over MTMD a while,) I've been overwhelmed by what's needed for the house to recover as well. Only these last few weeks/months, from a distance, I see that though there's still a very long way ahead, effort has been put in the right areas.

I never imagined the top-loader-vs-front-loader issue to be such an ethical conundrum. I know I'm a top-loader user; I stop and go all the time, and use the spin cycle on its own often. But 1) the one I have still works and I hate throwing out things when they work, (but we need a new one before, say, Feb; see below;) 2) I feel so guilty about throwing things out in general; I can't help "seeing" mountains of First World rubbish in Asia, although my washing machine will probably go into landfill in Nelson; and 3) this is the big one; I know a front-loader uses a fraction of the water of a top-loader. Guilt, guilt, guilt.

Besides, I may already have used up mula for routines/extras this year. (And our total asset is, I heard on the radio last week, something like 1/10 or 1/20 of what folks our age should have to live comfortably in our retirement.) But we need the new washing machine by around Feb because I'm likely to go home then, and I'd hate for Ben to be stuck with a broken one while I'm away.

I love February in Yokohama because it's so cold, but not crazy like Minnesota. By then I'll have been away from Japan for two and a half years. But wait, there's more. The main reason is Mom decided she and her two students are going to have a wee exhibition around then. It's her first not as a member of a large class buy as the main weaver, and a first for her students. I'd like to help with making a story/structure from a disparate collection of work, samples, and whatever else they have; make up presentable blurbs, small posters/invites, and suggest how to hang their work. I understand it's going to be a tiny exhibition in a tiny space, but still, a big step forward. And good on Mom at the ripe young age of 85.

But no congrats just yet. Look, every time we Skype, she cackles about "my" stash. I keep telling her I can handle most yarns I bought, because they are large amount of the same, mostly-skinny, yarns in different colors, and colors often go with other groups of my yarns. I know how to use them. Mom's, however, are all over, in different amounts/fibers/colors/sizes/shapes; so many greens and browns which even she doesn't use, and, oh, so much bouclé. You'd think she'd be appreciative I've lightened her load!

OK, now you can congratulate her, please. She'd love it, although she can't reply.
I made a pistachio/ginger/cranberry loaf. With about twice as much nuts/fruits and sugar, it's a biscotti recipe, to be sliced and baked a second time. But we like the between-cake-and-cookie texture after the first bake, so I use the skinnier bread pan, fewer nuts/fruits and less than half the sugar. (Yesterday I mixed vanilla sugar with maple syrup.) I've been making a variations about every ten days. Ben likes raw pistachio, I like almond or golden raisins, but always with quite a lot of grated ginger. Healthier and more flavorful than store-bought bickies and we eat less of it. (I took the pic in a hurry when I sliced a piece for Ben's lunch. You get the picture. :-P)

Ben finishes the work year in 22 days, then has 24 days of break. His work is making staff take more of the annual leave at Christmas/New Year time, which works for us and Ben's taken extra. Anyway, to saturate ourselves in the summer holiday mode, I'm hoping to get tax return out of the way. I got started while the house was being washed. But for now, outside duty beckons.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Next

Buoyed by yesterday's cardio and remembering the lovely feel of old wool, I put on the gray and black warp from Mom's stash on the four-shaft today. Not only do these yarns have scales on, but they smell like sheep on rainy days and my hands receive a hint of grease whenever I handle them. Dreamy.
I have an array of weft candidates, (shortlist for today as above,) but to maintain that nostalgic, old-fashioned feel, I may stick to its own kind, i.e. the balls on the left. Because the colors are crisp and achromatic, the warp renders to a contemporary, masculine mood, (the colors are most reminiscent of Dad's formal, striped trousers he wore to his students' and alum's weddings,) and I also think a pale blue warp would look just as nice. (Those on the far right are Mom's hand-dyed handspuns.) Or whites. We'll see. Unlike the last time, I am not going to waste the warp on making fabric, but will try to get three or even four shawls from this warp.

Today's task would have been ever so much easier had I kept a record of the numbers of ends in a repeat, marked which sides of the two chains were to go on the outside/center of the cloth, or the brown warp's EPI on this blog as I usually do. Between the loom notebook, (on which I occasionally write down info but usually only how many cm I've woven,) and the ready-made warps notebook, (which usually has the color/fiber/size/source, intended EPI, and number of ends, only sporadically color distribution and other pertinent data.) I discovered I wove the brown warp at 12EPI, so I stared at the two chains, took a guess and lined them, put the lease sticks through the crosses, and the ends through a raddle as I counted. It turned out the numbers were:

8 (gray) - 8 (black) - 4 (gray) - 8 (black) - 8 (gray) - 4 (black)

ending at 8-8 on both sides. Of course I had the two chains the wrong way around so I got another pair of lease sticks, take them out of the raddle, move them across, and, oh, you get the picture. In short, not pretty.

This warp will most likely be threaded in Dornick again and be woven in something of the  2/2 flavour with one or two weft colors in a piece. It's not one of my "big idea" projects but a real pleasure because I know the loveliness of the finished cloth.