Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Cold Spell

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

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

* * * * *

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

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Parts that Made Up my Week

Well, some of them.

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

But beyond that, ummmmm, nah.

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

Sunday, June 7, 2015

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

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

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

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

Tic toc.



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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