Friday, January 1, 2021

Moving On

Yesterday I un/rewound about 3m of the purple variegated mohair/merino warp, and restarted weaving. The selvedge was horrible, so I started a second time like so: 
I picked three weft colors that looked nice together, but I don't know if I'll keep going or restart with one color. The weft color combination looks too modern/casual, like a Marimekko dress I had in the 80s, but the design is... not?
 
I am amazed how many colors go well with dark purple and green because I used to think dark purples were choosier. I am spoiled for choice, which is why I picked three for this piece. The old sample were brought out again, but not only are they not helping in choosing colors, but...  
I also like the warp yarns showing more clearly in the looser sett. Oh, dear.
I am not in a rush. I can tell the unwinding helped a great deal, but it'll still be a delicate operation with the brittle warp and big shed. I'm still prepared to abandon it if it gets too onerous. Best case scenario, there is enough warp to make two longish scarves plus a souvenir, or three shortish. 
I recounted the number of warp ends of the orange/yellow cashmere warp on the Ashford 8-shaft by color, so I can start working on drafts. Then I found I had not only counted/recorded, but already made drafts. This was one of them and I think it'll work. I remembered oranges and especially yellows were hard to see on the screen so I used blues to show color changes, but boy, I do like these blues!
I was looking at for I wove in the past few years in this blog because I couldn't recall many, and I happened on this and honestly, I have no recollection. I think I'd like to weave this modified version in skinny merino or silk or some such in the near future. Interesting how I threaded first the last time and then input it to consider how to weave it.

New Year's Resolution? No, not doing that any more. I remember a few years ago when I couldn't think of anything for the first time in my life, and felt astonished and a little guilty. But like the Good Intentions list, (on which I shall keep working because it was meant for this all summer,) I am adopting two principles as my priorities: to finish things, and to aim for the best quality rather than speed, efficiency, etc, in everything. 

And to that end, I decided to make note of books and particularly good audiobooks I finish in my diary; just title, author, year and one or two lines of comments, but I hope this will encourage me to  finish books and a couple of lines may just help me remember. Small stuff.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Not

I trimmed/washed/pressed/dried the cashmere pieces.
The "natural" 4-ply piece is long and heavier than usual, but nice in a garment-y, easier-to-match fashion. (Cough.) It's long so you can fold in half and put the fluffy end through the loop, even if you're on the tall side.
The green piece came out surprisingly not soft compared to the yellow sample of the same constituent fibers, 100%+cash/silk. Perhaps it's worth washing once more, at least a hot vinegar bath. The color changes in different environment, and I like it best under artificial lights, but Ben, who likes greens, likes it throughout the day.
 
Above the yellow sample is the where I tried the tweedy look, with variegated dark red and a strange variegated charcoal. It has a nostalgic coat-fabric appeal, and I would have gone with that had I more of the charcoal. 
And the warp end, erratically-treadled piece is, well, what it is. Soft overall, except this lovely mid-gray patch, prompting me to wonder if that yarn was some strange cashmere mix which Mom bought because, well, she bought everything. It's a shorter piece, but had I woven with a proper weft, it would have been a proper, (possibly sellable,) piece. 

You might have picked up I am underwhelmed. It's been a few days of heavy mia culpa for bad/no record keeping and rushing to finish a fabulous warp poorly for the sake of finishing a warp. In recent years, at least in my head, I've switched my intentions (?) from showy look to more "standard" garment-y look. It's in part because I thought they would sell more easily, but also because I admire other weavers' pieces reminiscent of 1950s-70s coat fabric in Mom and my aunts' closets. Well, this style by me don't sell, and I don't enjoy weaving them as much as the more flamboyant stuff. With the sudden appearance of arthritis, the idea of not knowing how much longer I can weave became real; I don't want to waste my time, energy, and most of all, mojo. (It doesn't mean every warp will be a project-style endevour, but I want to make every piece something that makes my heart sing. Even the stash busters.)
 
On Boxing Day I had an interesting talk with Bookbinder Rosie. We've been in our respective crafts for roughly the same length, and find ourselves in that place where we know a few things, our strengths/weaknesses, what we'd like to try, and maybe not try new things on a commission piece. And to be discriminating when we receive advice from gurus, and reject if it feels too counterintuitive. We have developped enough intuition in our crafts; just not enough trust/confidence in ourselves.

In a strange twist, our talk buoyed me, so I'm going to stick with the purple variegated warp for a wee while longer. I'll unwind/rewind it about 3 meters and see if I can weave a shortish piece. Or I'll do the whole lot and measure at the same time. 
 
Because I like it. 
 
And if it works it'll be fabulous. But it I find it too onerous, we know I'll just rip it off and put on a fabulous new warp. I can't tell you if I'm just being contrary, or have some intuition on how to make it work, but you know I'll report back. And because the warp is on the big loom, we won't have to wait another ten years and two weeks. 

Of the items on the Good Intentions List from late November, I finished two of the first set of three; haven't touched the second, third and fourth sets of threes; slowed down but have managed letters to Mom, at least one a week; and have piled more stuff in the stash room with no intention of cleaning it just yet. I'm not worried about lists, either this one, or coming up with Looking Back on 2020 one, (except the one most stark item: the Australian bush fires,) or Looking Forward to 2021 one, (nada.) 

We are having a particularly lazy summer break for two lazy folks who have always had lazy summer breaks. One reason is this: as long as we've been married, Ben's gone to bed late, slept few hours, jumped out of bed at the crack of dawn on weekends and holidays, and caught up with a nap usually on Saturday afternoons. This summer, though, he is sound asleep until much, much later and even goes to bed earlier than me. He's in IT and throughout the lockdowns he worked from home, which sounds easy, but behind the scenes IT folks around the world worked hard with sudden, surprise announcements and deadlines; many worked around the clock because users are online around the clock, some cancelled planned annual leave due to increased workload. Ben's been in IT for almost 40 years so these demands are part for the course, but I wonder if the extra erratic year is taking a toll on a guy that's, you know, not getting any younger. So I let him sleep in, and I usually read.

Naughty me, I didn't think of IT as essential workers, until Duluth artist Carolyn Sue Olson's Essential Worker series #63, found almost at the bottom. (And Ben might remind you he was born in 1963.)
 
We had planned to do a few projects with our outdoor furniture and deck, not only to make them more pleasing to the eye but so they last longer, and to that end we injected big investment in paint/oil during the October sale. I had also hoped to clean the patio so we can stack the firewood, clear the end of the driveway, get a skip, have them takeaway the vines and bulbs we stuffed in wool bags over the last year, and start anew. The repeating cycle of rain and sun, usually within the same day, have covered our grounds in convolvulous vines. Again. But we've done very little, and today being the day before the halfway point of Ben's holiday, usually I would be in a grand panic, but I'm not. We'll get around to doing some.  
 
We cook a bit but not as much as I imagined, eat OK, I do minimum housework, we stay home not because of any Plague-related regulations, (we currently have virtually none inside NZ,) talk a bit. Ben's getting into carving wax to have Tom cast into metal, and he's now thinking of wood carving, something he did in the past. I'm into weaving.

And that is where we're at on the eve of New Years Eve 2020. If I don't show up tomorrow, then we shall meet again on the other side. And may 2021 be joyous, rewarding, and beautiful.

Friday, December 25, 2020

Clarity/Obscurity

Obscurity: After the natural 26/4 weft piece early last week, after sampling more tweedy looks, I wove one with two minty green 26/2 combined to make 26/4 as weft for quick weaving. I prefer yellow but I've been told too often, "I would never wear yellow," so... (This combo, though, has a slightly car-sick complexion.) With still some more warp left, I used achromatic thrums and left-on-bobbin bits to weave a randomly-treadled piece for me or family. I expected to get a short fabric or enough for a cowl at best, but I got a short scarf; had I known, I would have woven a proper scarf with pale blue wefts. I rushed to get this warp finished, and regret wasting a really lovely warp. Still, another old warp off the loom.   
Clarity: Abandoning the clasped wefts was the right decision. After washing the wee piece, I remembered the last time I tried, pointed threading/treadling pose problems. Weaving with clasped wefts, sometimes I had to choose between showing clearly the weave pattern or the shapes/lines created by the different colors. 
 
I wonder if the same problem exists with what I call the lazy clasped weft, where one weft enters the shed from the right selvedge, another from the left, they clasp somewhere in the shed and return to their original selvedges. Each weft travels round trip, two picks in a shed, so the lines/shapes won't be as sharp, but it's worth considering/experimenting in combination with point threading/treadling. 
 
Obscurity: The last remaining of the three unfinished warp is the brittle purple variegated mohair/merino warp. Intellectually it is a no brainer to take it off the loom. The more I wove on the delicate warp, the more erratic my beat became and as you can see top right I packed it in so much in comparison to the samples on the left or the start of the piece on bottom right. It's unattractively weft-dominant. But I got some nice samples from this warp and every other day I feel I must persist. The other every other day, I get giddy thinking about a number of warps that can go on the big loom if only I abandon this one.
Clarity: I had a ten-week gap in my joy-knitting. I wasn't sure why I was still doing this, because it's ugly and stiff in parts, but it's good as a sampler, so I'm sticking with it. I'm leaving ends sticking out, etc, so when it's done its work, I'll unravel and knit something else with the yarn. 

Clarity: I'm learning more about arthritis. Holding tightly/pulling/exertion aggravates it. After taking turmeric capsules and drinking turmeric and cinnamon concoctions for a fortnight, I was still afraid of weeding, but felt most chores around the house would be OK. Weaving was fine, as was cooking, ironing, cleaning, until I made the mistake of squeezing tiny limes from the garden by hand; my right hand lit up like Christmas tree and throbbed for a day and a half. I have been having increased difficulty opening glass jars, though, even when the hands aren't hurting.
 
Good/bad food for arthritis overlap with those for diabetes, so there hasn't been a big change in our diet in theory; in practice we're cutting out a whole lot of carbo/sugar that crept back in the last couple of years. Unlike weight-control or diabetes, though, arthritis hurts, so it's easy to skip naughty foods. And with so much weird "teas" every day, I even got used to turmeric; it no longer suck my will to live. :-D

A week to go with this most "memorable" year, folks. I wonder what else I can finish.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Shiny

When Shaft 6's spring broke, I checked and found at least one other not working as it was supposed to, but not interfering with the weaving. Ben promised to repair it once the warp was off. 
I had no idea he meant everything that could be taken apart would and cleaned as well. A whole lot of washing, drying, waxing and spraying followed yesterday afternoon. And a whole lot of counting.
We finished reassembling this morning. QED. Except the height of the shafts were out of whack. We hadn't realized how varied the lengths of the springs and cords were, (and the size of the screws,) nor how precariously someone balanced the shafts so all eight were more or less within 5mm of each other raised or resting. 
 
Ben gutted it again, swapped frames, swapped heddles a bit, (all eight had 81 each but I gave 1 and 2 100 for tied weave, distributing the rest between 3 to 8,) cut one new cord, and now they are once again within a few millimeters of each other, but they taper gently down from the front to back. And shinier and cleaner than it's ever been in my possession; not bad for a weekend's work. And he oiled the kitchen table afterwards.

It's actually quite a good loom. Ex Nelson Polytechnic weaving school, it has not an inch but a whopping 4cm shed, with two warp beams. The castle and beater lift up easily, and the wooden frame is sturdy. The only issue is the aluminum shaft frames being fragile, (one is very warped,) and hard to maintain. It may have been painted at one point, and metal dust collect at the bottom over time. The metal heddles, though not stainless steel, have huge eyes and are in pretty good shape. 
 
If I am to use this loom more often, and indeed weave mostly skinny cotton, an option is to replace the heddles with texolv so I can squeeze in more, and for Ben to replace the frames and spring-system. But it's not urgent. Possibly not necessary.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Near Future Plans

I guess it's back to normal transmission today. After yesterday's post, I've able to see my direction more clearly, so I made decisions which had been staring at me but which I was reluctant to make. 
 
Second of the three warps on The List: remember the teal piece? I've been weaving little at a time in spite of icky tension. Early in November I remembered why I never used this merino/mohair mix in the warp after trying once, on a table loom: it is so terribly brittle and breakable! Still, I persisted and finished the third weft repeat yesterday, but who am I kidding? Even if I can be bothered fixing broken warps, the resultant cloth could be really wonky. 
 
So I cut it off. I'll mend and wash for some future use. I must now decide whether to take the warp off completely, or unwind/rewind around 2m at a time and weave 150cm scarves; there is enough for two scarves. It worked for the first part of this piece, but I didn't unwind far enough. It'll still be a fragile warp. Very pretty, though.
Third of the three warps on The List: remember the achromatic clasped weft piece? Even two years ago I was complaining it was hard on the body, the back and the eyes. It's a particularly nice warp; I don't have any more of the palest gray, and this was supposed to be a superb piece, so again, I covered it with a cloth and waited for my mojo to return. But as I said yesterday, if I were to do something like this with cashmere, the Ashford table loom would suit better. So off it came, too; I'll wash that tiny piece for another use.

I started weaving with 26/4 100% cashmere weft in the same pattern. I haven't woven a lot in these sensible, sedate combinations of late, but it'll be attractive as a garment, and will weave up super quickly. Just before dinner last night I wove 53cm. There is enough for two scarves if my calculations are right. 
And here's a fourth of the three warps on The List, on the Ashford. You had a glimpse yesterday. Some years ago I made a symmetrically striped cashmere warp. It was getting late and I ran out of one color so I used what looked like salmon pink in twilight. In daylight the following day, it was very pink and under the couch it went. When I came home from Japan last year, I edited the colors, (I removed the pink but can't remember how I restored symmetry,) and wound it on the Ashford. It'll most likely be a twill of some kind, but I haven't progressed further, so it didn't make it onto the list. There's enough for three good-sized scarves.
And just so you don't think I've moved on from the last cotton piece already, I got out my collection of Japanese sewing silk, plus what I salvaged from Mom's sewing box, plus a good number of synthetic sewing machine embroidery threads I don't remember buying. :-D I'm thinking of possibly combining these with the cotton I have. 

Friday, December 11, 2020

Now Looking with Words

In no particular order, here are some observations about the latest cotton piece, which may or may not become a sporadic but long-running series with a name something along the lines of "Indulgence": 
 
* Broken warp knots are easier to see than feel, and it's not easy to see all of them. Although I wouldn't put a knot in a piece to sell/gift, the piece is fine for me to wear. Or, make another Doni's bag

* Knots can be made into a design feature made big or with many "arms" like a small pompom. If I were to do this deliberately, including them in the weft would be easier than in the warp. Treadling/lifting mistakes make interesting accents, too.
 
* The texture is only marginally stiffer than 100% 20/6 pieces.
 
* Early on, when I was going for the secret code look, I repeated pattern lift combinations for 2, 3 or 4 pattern picks. Later, for variety, I tried 6 and 7 times and they created fluid lines/shapes. I see merits in both, and the same goes for threading. Unless I have a "forest" rather than "trees" design, a mix of both, vertically and horizontally, would be most interesting/dynamic. 
 
* This warp was threaded 1-x-2-x, although not necessarily in pairs, e.g. 1-x-2-y-1-y-2-z-1-z-2-z and so on. I didn't have a plan and threaded as I pleased. I flippantly wondered out loud what would happen if I threaded 60/2 in Shafts 1 and 2, 20/2 in x, y, z, etc.
These drafts show warp ends of 20/2 only. On the left is black and white alternate ends; the right black only. The wefts are yellow 20/2 for pattern and olive 60/2 for tie down. 
These drafts show warp consisting of 20/2 for Shaft 3 and above, and 60/2 for Shafts 1 and 2. The left shows black 20/2 and white 60/2 alternately; the right shows black in both sizes. The wefts are the same yellow 20/2 for pattern and olive 60/2 for tie down. 
 
The primary visual difference is the width of the shapes/lines. and the visibility of the shapes of individual cells. (The latter is where the named tied weaves come in.) The apparent "clarity" of the larger shapes can be manipulated by colors, in making them sharper or duller. There may be difference in the texture of the cloth with increased use of 60/2, but I can't be certain until I sample.
 
My understanding at this stage in considering 60/2 for Shafts 1 and 2 depends on: 1) the desired color effect/interaction; 2) structural/functional differences, if any, to suit the purpose, e.g. scarf vs bag; 3) textural difference, if any.    

* This style would suit over-decoration, e.g. beads, embroidery, etc, as well as just the cloth.  

* I am most keen to work on more pieces in this style, but if scarves, would make them shorter, 150-180cm, though wider is also an option. 
 
* In addition to flashy colors, I'm keen to weave a few with gazillion variations in monochrome or in a narrow band of analogous colors. 
 
* My favorite lifting mechanism on table looms is usually levers-in-front, as in an Ashford.
But this loom's system works well in this style of weaving where I usually chose Shafts 3 to 8 geometrically, such as two at a time clockwise, without paying attention too which number shafts are up/down in a particular shed, other than 1 and 2. 
This loom is "Tekoteko", a NZ brand. I had never heard of it until I checked yesterday. Shaft 1 lever is left front; 2 on the right; 3, second from the front on the left, etc. 

* That I can recall, I've only woven two pieces in cotton on this loom, and the loom and the fiber are a compatible because I can pull the tension to crazy-tight. Ashford's soft tension suits cashmere, on the other hand, producing much fluffier pieces than the floor looms. I may dedicate these two table looms for these two distinct fibers, while leaving Klick for experimentation, sampling and study. 
 
While seated, Klick's lifting system is impossible to see and bigger numbered shafts unreachable, and the loom height is on the low side for prolonged standing weaving. On the + side, the loom has 16 shafts and is easy to rethread, so is well-suited to sampling including projects intended for the big loom. So, clarifying the primary use/purpose of my table looms makes good sense, and should help plan stash reorg. 

And this project was supposed to be all about color interaction. AHAHAHAHA. I've left the weft heads/tails hanging from the selvedges for some more looking.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Looking

You know how art teachers repeat at least a dozen times per session, "Look." I never understood what exactly I was supposed to do, so I just stared and hoped something would happen in my life/figure drawing class. Nothing ever did, though, so the best alternative was to try to quiet the voices in the head and put on the "looking" look.
 
These days I can and do look at textiles, (and pottery and some paintings,) for a long time. More often, many, many times in short spurts. (One reason I like to go to art exhibitions on my own, because I walk around and return to a few works many, many times.) I don't know what exactly I'm looking at, or for, but when I'm doing it in the "best" way, I catch myself observing without thinking, without intention, without analyzing. I'm not observing anything specific; I'm not sure what my brain is doing; and I certainly don't remember the images other than vague general impressions afterwards, but I trust the brain is picking up something, and try not to think of it as a waste of time. 
 
That's what I did yesterday. I had one job to do, to stick the piece in the washing machine then to press. I fully intended to go downstairs and weave on the big loom afterwards, but I didn't. I kept looking at the piece, handling it or walking passed it. The cloud traversed all over the sky and the light, (and my white balance) changed every few seconds. But I just looked, empty-headed and empty-minded.
A funny story about looking. My parents love/d nature, and they took up every opportunity to expose/drag us to beautiful views. This was their obsession while we lived in the US, when they had two cars and only one kid. When we moved from Minneapolis to Tucson, we took a couple of weeks to drive, visiting as many national parks as possible. We'd stop at unreasonably numerous scenic points, and Dad in particular had a way of sweeping his arm from left to right, proclaiming this was the most beautiful view we ever would see. Unfailingly. 
 
The problem was, while I sincerely appreciated his enthusiasm for the view du jour, or du moment, I didn't know what "view" was. Had he instructed me to look at the mountain, or river, or lake, or trees, or clouds, or almost anything else, I would have gladly looked at them with equal enthusiasm. But uncertain, I'd feign this far-away, pensive, grownup look, desperately hiding my confusion. 
 
You could say I'm a real pro looking like I know what I'm looking at. Good times.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Tick

I finished the cotton piece in the kitchen just before dinner last night. I was growing irritated by this piece, because it was going on and on, spreading cotton fluff all around. It wasn't a difficult project by any means, color interplay was fascinating, but there were some tension problems on the left side where I had run out of metal heddles and used wonky/fluffy! cotton temporaries. The irony was, there were enough available on the the right side but I didn't think to rethread; had it been a proper project, I would have, but then again this warp was put on the loom soon after I finished weaving the previous piece, so it wasn't as if I was ignorant about how this loom work in combination with these threads. But then again, I left a few knots in the warp, too, so there's that. In the pic the edges look alarmingly scalloped but in real life it's not, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed it's somewhat to do with the colors and lighting and that the rest can be washed/pressed away. (You may laugh out loud.) 
 
Warp and pattern weft were 20/2 mercerized, tabby weft 60/2; 42ish EPI, 22ish Pattern PPI. Off the loom unwahsed it's 18.4cm wide and 208cm. All broken warp were knotted, not mended properly. I wove 1cm of plain weave with 60/2 weft at the start and the end, a hardly-enough-for-hemming/what-was-I-thinking amount. On the other hand, for a warp I couldn't always see well but kept weaving, I have only 4 picks with weft skips and that I could see, none in the warp. I have no idea what I'll do with this, and I have to see what the hand will be like; unwashed, it is stiffer/wirier than 20/2-only pieces because of the 60/2. 

The piece is amazingly parallel and perpendicular. I seem to do much better on table looms in this respect, and I wonder if it's the short shaft-to-breast-beam distance that allows this. I can't see the "big" picture, of course, although this loom, for its size, has some height between the breast and cloth beams, allowing a glimpse. 
 
I also enjoy what feels like a more personal involvement with the cloth as I weave. I don't know if it's the proximity of everything, or the overall smallness of the looms and my operation, or the fact I'm "towering over" the lot. Do these all mean the same thing? I feel a different kind of thrill when weaving on bigger looms, but this personal feeling can be useful. If/when I can't handle the big loom for whatever reason, OR if the big loom dies because of my precarious setting, OR if I get another bout of shaft-envy, table looms allow fussier hand-manipulated techniques, as well as supplementary wefts, and probably a bunch of other things I haven't thought of, which will allow "more unique" pieces than just changing weft colors and/or lifting/treadling.
 
I'm so tempted to put on another warp with tabby shafts threaded with 60/2, but towards the end of November I made a mental Not Quite A To Do list, but a Finish First or Good Intention List for the summer. "Work"-wise, it included: 

* 3 looms with unfinished warps; as of last night, two to go;
* 3 shirts for Ben - he needs short-sleeved cotton shirts; we have the fabric, I have a book which has patterns I can use almost unaltered;
* 3 Ts to tie die, (2 are redo,) plus 2 new practical/all over dying; 
* 3 letter journals to finish and post;
* and continue to post 3 letters/week to Mom. I'm down to three now; these are not difficult, but somewhat time-consuming. I don't have to have well-thought-out texts or continuity, I'm not even sure if I need text at all, but I need between three to six photos that mean something to us both, and if possible, add witty comments. I have no idea if she's opening them, looking at them, or enjoying them, but we do what we can for family, don't we? 

* This is a big item but not a Finish First one: clean up my stash room. It's been a hard core storage space for more than a year, and from time to time for a good reason. I'm trying to rethink which fibers to use on which loom and store yarns accordingly. Cashmere, for e.g. will be woven on table looms which are upstairs, so I brought the cones upstairs, but not the balls in drawers, and I haven't brought wool downstairs. For a while after I came back from Japan a year ago, I concentrated on the weaving to reduce the stash before having to think of moving them around. I also want to reduce my art supply take up, not so much in getting rid of them, but in storing them in a tighter, space-savy way even if they will be harder to access. A tidier stash room means more focus on weaving and the "kitchen" table loom can return to its permanent position where it can sit or be used in situ. 
 
Arthritis is 95% gone. I started taking a turmeric capsule in the morning and one tall tea-based turmeric/cinnamon concoction in the afternoon. It's annoying when I get caught with a ping in a joint or general stiffness, though, and it seem to happen more in the afternoons.
 
The diet is going OK. On Day 3, I noticed my palate was much sharper and by Day 5 I lost my post-lockdown gain! (Not insignificant!!) I didn't gain any during lockdown, which was astounding considering how much we cooked. It's the more leisurely/normal food shopping, not rushing through the supermarket to grab protein and veg in 20 minutes, but having the time to stroll down junk food and ice cream isles. In other words, will power. 
 
The good stuff that happened on the first week were temporary; I haven't appreciated any specific taste or smell since, but I've gotten used to turmeric and I don't loathe it so much, and of course the weight loss, well, AHAHAHAHA.
 
Most of New Zealand has had crazy variable weather, including a terrible flood in Napier, the Art Deco city on the North Island. In Nelson, we've had rain, sun and strong wind every day most days, and there have been terrific-for-me weeding days, but I have worked outside only a couple of times. Since it's weeding that triggered arthritis the last two times, I'm a little fearful of getting back in action. I have sprayed to kill, with white vinegar, but this cycle of rain and sun has completely erased traces of Plague Gardening, so once again our place looks like a Halloween decoration competition second place winner in the junior class. 
 
I have to train myself to go out with a kitchen timer, (I used to do it when I just couldn't be bothered,)  and do short spurts and leave the really deep/sturdy ones for Ben or real weed killers. It's sad, though, because neighbors are having trees cut and properties prettied up for the holiday season. We're opting to clean as much as we can over the holidays, get the skip and dispose of the green waste, then get the tree guys in. By then, we might have a better idea of exactly what we'd like the tree guys to do. 

Now washing the cotton piece, no mending; it can go in the net, then hot, heavy duty cycle with regular detergent.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Food, Body and Other Miscellany

My hands are better. Or I'm learning to treat it better. It's amazing what teaspoonfuls of cinnamon and turmeric can do, helped by steamed green-lipped mussels Friday night, hand cream with mussel oil Thursday onward, fresh pineapples since Saturday; (a former weight-lifter Peter told me they are good for... something when I had a tennis elbow, if memory serves; tennis elbow-arthritis, roughly the same area??)
 
It is no exaggeration to say I was in pain. (Mind you, I've never been seriously ill or injured and my pain threshold is childishly low.) Worse than during the lockdown when I was more surprised by the look of my right pinky with a more specific pain. This time it was both hands, all over, up to my elbows. I sat in the kitchen dazed, trying to swallow large glasses of different teas with C&T. 
I don't care for the smell and taste of turmeric, the way it stains my kitchen counter, though I like it in curries, and the color on appropriate surfaces like fiber even if it's not colorfast. With teas, I discovered turmeric overpowers cinnamon, no contest, so most concoctions smell like whatever trying to distract turmeric and failing. By Thursday, however, either I was getting used to it, or blood orange tea has a strong enough smell, I could down it quickly. I also have pomegranate tea which Ben says has a strong scent; I tried it on Monday and it didn't work but I'll give it another go. Another I drink often, one called Mi Chai, which I assume is akin to Indian Chai some drink instead of coffee, could not compete at all with turmeric in spite of the strong scents. 
 
Yesterday morning was coldish, so I made C&T with warm milk. Lo and behold, turmeric blends well with milk (fat?) and the smell all but disappears while the lovely scent of cinnamon remains. Because it's milk, I can't drink large quantities as quickly as herbal tea, but this is a concoction bordering on nice.
 
It appears I must keep making and drinking C&T concoctions for the time being, though. Each glass full seem to work for longer, so I don't wake up with throbbing hands any more, but if I don't have one early-ish in the morning, by noon pins and needles return. And I am more comfortable if I remember to top up with another in the afternoon or evening.

I wove on the small loom in the kitchen all week. I'm preparing for the possibility I have to live with arthritis, because it keeps coming back. In this case, I want to train my body and mind now to get used to the idea of weaving in spite of it, because I'm kind of simple like that, I react in a certain way to a certain stimulus. It's worked so far; the pain is general/all over so no particular weaving motion made it any worse. Between Harry Potter audiobooks and the fun I'm having with colors allowed me to put arthritis on the back burner for the time being. 

Luckily desirable foods for diabetes and arthritis are similar. I was distraught when a good friend recommended a cookbook called "How Not to Die", not because I thought we would die otherwise, (well, we all will eventually, but...) I'm more, Delish/Yum/Domestic-Goddess kind of reader/eater. I tried to recall the 18 months when we succeeded in reducing sugar, fruits, root vegetables and carbo, and portion, rather drastically. Ben lost some weight, we felt healthier, and best of all we started to appreciate flavors better, and yet, and yet, that diet seemed bland and pale and tasteless in my head. (Mind you, the book's content appears good; it has a full chapter on beans, so I'm still thinking.) 
 
On Friday, we spent big money on a shipload of veg and interesting ingredients including new-to-us Indian spices. Coming home with all this and being reminded of how we ate made the world look slightly more colorful. After 18 months of slacking off, eating more "regular" food with more carbo, it's hard to walk past potato chips, for example, in the store, so we didn't avoid them. But we didn't need ice cream or chocolate on top. I got rye and spelt to keep baking our loaf a week, but also enough dried beans, so we can substitute with healthier ingredients. And then, there will be a great deal of cauliflower, again. 

And lucky we're heading into summer; it's easier to eat well now. 
Cannellini mash, which was a great success last night. When making it for ourselves, I make it more bland with its own cooking liquid and rely on the flavour of the main dish, but for company I used milk, ghee and salt. The texture was spot on, though I could still smell the beans. This is a most adaptable dish. 
Ben used it as a paste on toast this morning. 
I baked the weekly rye/spelt sourdough.
I made seed crackers, but I didn't pulverize brown rice enough the crackers didn't stick, so I gathered the bits in a jar to have with yogurt for breakfast. This morning, I was advised by Carolyn Olson to use corn flour to make them stick. 
Green and orange salad: fried carrots and zucchini, steamed string beans and asparagus, cucumbers and grapefruit segments from our garden. Ben made a sweet vinaigrette, which brought together all elements beautifully. Bottom is Esther's Moroccan Harira. 
This morning we had leftovers. Ben opted for toasts, but I chose a dollop of mash and an indecent 
amount of coriander. Boy, they do complete flavours don't they. I'm glad I started a biggish pot this year.
Esther is an amazing-est baker, but we had to decline her pudding. Or she declined to make it. We opted for pineapple, apple, banana and grapefruit segments in yogurt for dessert. It was very refreshing. 
Not a bad consolation prize, though, I say. Now we both want to grow peonies.  But gardening will happen in moderation when the hands are OK.
 
Looking back, during lockdown we ran through the supermarket to grab veg and protein most trips. Since we've been free to enjoy slow food shopping, we've been buying two and three treats rather than just the one. Or none. We were careful not to put on weight during lockdown, but we've certainly bulked up since. So, all in all, it's a good thing my hands hurt to alert us to what we're doing to ourselves now. Rather than relying on Ben's blood sugar level, relying on him to measure at the right times of the day, we now have my hands as an indicator for how we're doing.  
 
Not a bad thing, all things considered.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Meanwhile

Hello again. I've been "busy" doing normal things, pretty steadily for me, hurray, but haven't finished anything to show you in a ta-da! way.
I am regularly weaving the colorful Summer & Winter piece in the kitchen, a perfect position for a something-every-day project, but have slowed down somewhat; the best I manage is around 10cm. Most days I enjoy the weaving, but I am also growing tired of having a loom dominate the kitchen table, with a rather dusty warp at that.  

I was writing to Mom about this, but I couldn't explain well what I was doing. She's woven Summer & Winter, but in the usual manner showing off shapes, while for me it's about color/value interaction. And although I attached closeup photos, I'm not sure if she can see 60/2 tabby adding nuance to the 20/2 pattern. I'm pretty sure she can't.
 
(For non-weavers, this is a weave in which I alternate a fat "pattern" weft, the dominant horizontal color you see in the picture, with a skinnier "tabby" weft, ostensibly to secure the structure of the cloth so there are no long floats which may snag, but I use these to give nuances to the cloth's colors. For e.g. in the middle, purple section in the pic, I used a dark purple tabby first, followed by a pale olive green. These tiny threads can enhance harmony, create disharmony, or bring in very gradual progression, all of which are thrilling to experiment with.) 
 
Speaking of Mom, she can no longer hear her phone ring, she can't hear our voices on the phone well, and to be honest I'm not sure if she's interested in listening to what anyone else has to say. After she rang my sister half a dozen times in quick succession over some days and weeks, with demands, rants, and confused admonitions, pushing sister on the verge of a nervous breakdown, Sister asked the caretakers to take the battery out of her phone. Temporarily, I hope. That's gotta confuse Mom big time. 
 
Writing is the only way I can communicate with Mom at present, though she not being a writer I doubt I'll hear back. And to this end, I'm writing half a dozen very short letters and postcards at a time, with the emphasis on photographs and drawings rather than text. Ben's been posting them three a week for me, so half a dozen doesn't go a long way. A few weeks ago one Monday morning, I realized I may never speak to my mother again. But it is what it is. Mom dislikes hugging and sentimental expressions of affection, but I think postcards saying just, "Love you" or "Thank you" are forthcoming, in addition to old family photos.  
 
With the facility's own restrictions on top of the phone issue, at present Mom's lost all means to reach out to people outside at the moment, unless she writes, which no doubt is going to speed up her deterioration. It appears she's refusing rehab, too, so wheelchair and all kinds of what could have been temporary assistance are becoming permanent. But these are my conjecture. I'm aware I said I'll write about Mom a few times here, but her conditions/situation are changing, and too much is me guessing, so suffice it to say, not very good at all. 

* * * * *

The amount of rain we've been having is becoming unusual for this time of the year. I'm not complaining, it's been mostly pleasant for me, but occasionally loud enough I worry about the roof caving in. In between, I have been weeding, most recently between and under the carpet neighbour Katheryn gave us during Lockdown for the steepest slope between our houses. We also need to finish securing them to the ground. (We ran out at one point, but Katheryn gave us some more, and we never "nailed' those down.) On one of the hottest/sunniest days so far, I pruned branches blocking the sun to her magnificent lemon tree, for eight hours, with a small handsaw. That was exhausting, and to give myself a break, I missed out on a couple of gloriously cloudy and cool days on the weekend to finish the job. but I got some stuff done. 

Most of the more important patches, where we can see from our house, is now looking... bad, as if there was never any Lockdown gardening. And in fact we did work heck of a lot on unusual patches in our grand estate.  

During Lockdown, I had a brush with arthritis; it was very painful but concentrated on the right hand, and it went away relatively quickly with some green-lipped mussel ointment and by cutting out sugar/carbo from the diet. I had forgotten about it, until this week, when it returned big time. At first I honestly thought it had to do with weeding that particular slope, but the weeds are the same as everywhere else, and because it's my hands, both hands all over this time, not legs/feet, so it's got to be other reasons. We did have a particularly sugary/carbo-y day and a half with a successful rye/spelt loaf, (great with peanut butter and marmalade,) for breakfast; my first ever carrot cake for afternoon tea; and a very well-baked asparagus flan with supermarket crust. I was just thinking we need to go back to the bland but healthier diet. The last few days I'm back to no sugar/carbo, giant glasses of tisanes with cinnamon, (like!) and turmeric, (loathe!) and it's better today than yesterday morning when my whole body felt hot and overly sensitive to all kinds of sensations. 
 
To my knowledge neither of my parents had arthritis, but Dad had gout on one foot. I wonder if arthritis is something I need to be mindful of for the rest of my life. 

The only good thing is, foods best avoided for arthritis are similar to those bad for diabetics, so if we return to the healthy low-carb/more-veg-than-we-care-to-name somewhat-bland-but-easy-in-summer diet I was thinking of just a few days ago, we should be OK. Fingers crossed. 
Rye/spelt loaf. I use a no-knead recipe but I felt like kneading after watching a cooking show, and now I know this recipe isn't harmed by kneading.
A very moist carrot cake, because I'm always afraid of over baking things in our wonky oven, and I was in a hurry to turn it out. It went back in the oven at 30C fan bake for a while to dry it a little more this morning. This one is so delicious I can't believe I made it. 
A too-well-baked asparagus flan, because I forgot ours is a tart dish about half as deep as a flan/quiche dish. Yummy, though. Maybe one more before asparaguses disappear from the stores.

Carrot cakes and flans/quiches are some of my favorite dishes, but I've never made them before. It's that thing I do where I fear failing/ruining things I love, same as studying weave structures or buying fabulous yarns and sitting on them for years before actually putting them on the loom. Not delayed gratification, but an overwhelming reluctance. I'm getting old now, and if I'm going to have to live with arthritis on top of everything else, I better not put off things any more lest I'll never get around to them.  

These carrot cake and flan recipes are so simple and adaptable, we brainstormed options/substitutions all evening before my hands flared up. So... I'll try to concentrate on the weaving for now, but I'll have to create occasions to inflict the cake on (un)suspecting friends over the holidays. 

Be well, dear people.