Back on Track on Birthday Eve

It's like this.

I belong to a group called Cross Country Weavers, and once a years, we exchange two woven samples, one in a group theme structure, and another in anything you've been working on. It's supposed to be an enjoyable learning experience.

My group's theme this year was Corkscrew, which is, in short, multiple twill threadings being intertwined within one cloth. Kind of.

I started reading about this structure last year just to get a feel for it, and it was either going to be a piece of cake, or it was going to do my head in. At my exhibit, on the quiet days, I read up on it and started to make notes, but because I read too many books, and weave structure definitions can vary, I got completely confused. So I went back to one book, listed the characteristics of this weave, and designed a few original ideas on the computer. Two of them looked workable, in a way that they were totally not the look I normally weave. And then it hit me.

The only way I can explain this to you is like this: say you've eaten bananas all your life, and sometimes they taste delicious, sometimes not, but on the whole you love them. And then one day, you get a bad one, and it nearly kills you, and the doctor tells you you're allergic to all fruits and the next piece will be really finish you.

Corkscrew had me so frustrated I was actively avoiding weaving and things to do with weaving probably most of March and April. I didn't avoid weavers, and I faked at being excited about what I heard, but I couldn't even look at a weaving book or my yarns, and it was mid-April when I finally got around to cleaning my looms. At one point, I was ready to sell everything and get a job.

Interesting things were happening, like I heard two gallery/museum shops were interested in stocking my scarves; I was asked to submit a proposal for a Nelson artists' exhibition taking place in Wellington in conjunction with World of Wearable Arts award show later this year, and most surprising of all, a gentleman from the local newspaper emailed me, and said he read my Get a Life post, and asked if I'd like to contribute an opinion piece in an unpaid-but-by -request-only section. And I sold the most pieces, ever, this April. All through this, I kept telling myself, "If this isn't the most exciting thing in my short career, I don't know what is!!" And still, I kept pacing in my living room like a living dead.

But I missed my fruits. I missed weaving, and being a weaver, and I figured if the corkscrews I drafted were so bad, I could get one out of a book and weave it. So I measured the warp on Friday and dressed the loom on Saturday and sampled my two drafts today, and you know, they're not bad. I can think of things I could do mixing different colors, and I wouldn't mind designing a few more.

So today, I ate a banana, and instead of killing me, it cured me. And it took getting back on the loom and throwing the shuttle to get me out of my creative coma. Serves me right.


Tomorrow is Unravelling's first birthday. I've been preparing to post something completely different, but this post suits the occasion better, so I'll leave it at that. I thank you all for visiting Unravelling, your encouragements, compliments, ideas and suggestions. I really appreciate your taking the time so I can bend your ears and get you tangled up in my ill-tempered warp.

Thank you, again.


More on Warp Tension

When you warp on a board or a mill, you're supposed to push each yarn layer snugly against the previous layer. I've done OK on the top peg here, but there are at least two warps markedly out of place on the bottom peg. But that's not what I wanted to focus on.

As seen in this photo, yarns start from the top, create a cross, go around all pegs, turns around at the bottom peg, and come back up. So they go around all pegs twice but only once around the top and the bottom pegs, so the top and the bottom pegs have half as many yarn layers. With the top peg, being right next to a cross, there is not as much packing, but on my bottom peg, seen here at the top, this is quite noticeable.

This means that as I put more warp yarns and layer them on the board/pegs, the warp yarns become slightly but increasingly longer. In addition to all other self-inflicted irregular tension problems, I have noticed time after time the left side of my narrower warps ever so slighting being looser. I used to put it down to my looms not being square, or something to do with the bake mechanism being on the right side of the looms, but could this be it? If so, adding the extra pegs at the bottom of my board should remedy this somewhat.

And again, if you think about it, how obvious is that!

PS. Please ignore the Manila folder in the above photo; I was trying to photograph the trapezoid the warps were creating, but couldn't manage.



Beautiful colors, divine wines, barbed wires.


It's funny how we get used to our tools and routines built around them, and to think we designed the routines ourselves at one time.

In trying to improve my tension, I've been talking to many weavers, and two things that came out in these discussions have been: a) don't tie on new warp and pull it through reed and heddles, and b) make two crosses when warping, one at each end.

A) is not a big problem on the four-shaft jack loom, but I'm still sitting on the fence on the 16-shaft, because of the time it takes to thread the darned thing. And it's harder to thread my 16-shaft standing in front of the heddles; I'll have to experiment with different positions, including the ways I hold my tongue. But as I start to experiment with silk and alpaca, it will become more important that I have even tension. Soooo... I'm playing this one by ear.

Now b). I knew I automatically made two crosses on my warping mill, but just one on the board, and after about 40 minutes warping beautiful Swedish cottolin in stripes of two taupes for a series of dish towels, I burst out laughing. Look!

Unless I want to get a little creative in the way I make the cross, it's a little hard to do at the bottom just now. I hired Ben the Husband last night to drill three holes and glue in three dowels at the bottom to make life simpler for me, and am keeping my fingers crossed he'll have time to do it this weekend.

Amazing, because I spent the three weeks pondering why I don't make the second cross on this board, instead of how I should do it.

But I have a more interesting discovery.


Morning Room Cafe Opened Today

The Red Art Gallery
, the only place on earth that stocks my weaving, opened its tiny cafe, The Morning Room, today. The cakes were great, but the small, old fashioned sandwiches were delicious and surprisingly filling at mere $3.50.

Anybody who wants to meet me in town will now have to walk to the Nelson Mail end of Bridge Street and meet me at the Morning Room. Excellent!

Photographs taken and posted with the permission of Jay Farnsworth.


Feast for the Eyes, Food for Thought

I found a great source of inspiration in Mayuresh Tendalker's photo collection of sarees here. Feast your eyes. In fact, his non-textile photos are just as inspirational.

And then there is my all time favorite, Montana Raven's photos here; she is a landscape designer, artist/photographer and has stunning nature photos, as well as cutest dog pics. Her words are warm and considered and good sources for reflecting on how I live; they can be found here and here.


A Weaver Named Lynn

I have a very easy time signing up for courses, but a hard time finishing them. Case in point is the NZ guild's design course, which is designed to be completed in about 4 or 5 months; it took me 28 months. Lynn was the education coordinator who wouldn't let me drop out, and every since, we've kind of kept in touch.

When Bonnie Inouye was in New Zealand, I really wanted to go to an additional workshop, which Lynn was coordinating, but in the end, I couldn't afford it. Lynn was also signed up for Randy's workshop last October, but her health deteriorated and she couldn't come, so I've never met her in person.

Dianne just told me that Lynn passed a way last weekend. It's very sad to loose a friend who has continued to be such a source of encouragement and humor, but it was also inevitable, especially considering the seriously ill health she'd been combating.

This is the very first time I lost one of my weaver friends. I'm spending the afternoon dressing my 4-shaft jack with the cashmere warp I finally measured last night; I'll spend it thinking of the wonderful things she must have woven in her life, and the pleasure she her textiles must have given her and everybody who came in to contact with them. And the many times she told me I couldn't withdraw from a course I've started.


Get a Life!!

I got two things in the mail yesterday: one was a statement of how much I can expect to be paid from the Red this month; the other was the accountant's bill. Needless to say, I, and the Red , must sell many, many, many scarves and shawls just to pay my accountancy bill.

I couldn't sleep a wink last night. I've been worried about money for about five years, and I work in an office part time to supplement the income in 2004: I hated the job, I was no good at the job, and even though I only worked in the afternoons, I was far from being a productive weaver in the mornings. So once again, I've been wondering if I should chuck all this in and get a job.

It also has to do with the fact that I'm looking at my own half-century this time next year, and if we would have continued to live and work in Japan, we would have had some amount saved up for our old age, because, well, that's what you do over there.

But the long and the short of it is I cringe at the idea of going back to an office job, (unless it's very part time or very temporary with people I already know and like: any offers?) because I tend to get very absorbed in whatever job I have and when I work in an office, that becomes my life; I can't combine that with other creative activity very well. The only alternative is to weave stuff that sells. And for me, for now, it's the small cashmere scarves for the Red that's a seller.

I need to hanker down and do a bit of "grunge" work as well as enjoying the creative process and be an artist and live the life of a kept woman; I need to bake bread as well as cake. And, hey, there are much worse grunge work than weaving tiny cashmere scarves. Once the warp is on, I'm going to have a good time anyway.

So, there, yeah, the short, chubby one!! You!! Get a life!!


I wasn't Born to Weave

Immediately after the exhibit, I started questioning why artists exhibit their work, and asked anyone who would indulge me. I remember getting a simple but an immensely satisfying solution from Jay Farnsworth, but I still don't have the answer, though I don't regret exhibiting.

Two weeks ago I went to see Lloyd, because something started to bother me tremendously. We've all heard artists say they were born to paint/sculpt/write/sing/dance, haven't we? Well, I never felt like I was born to weave. I like weaving, and I think I'm doing ok for the number of years I've put in so far, but I haven't felt that this is my vocation; in fact, I never felt like I had a vocation.

I remember during my days in a convent school, even though I didn't want it, I was frustrated I didn't get the calling. I knew that until I found my vocation, life remained diluted, meaningless, and on hold. And I still believe a vocation comes wrapped in soft white lights, angelic female voices, and even therapeutic aroma. I don't mind working hard to be good at it, but at some point, I would like to know if this is it, or not.

So I went to ask, well, complain to, Lloyd that I wasn't... real. The thought came about because I knew I didn't exhibit my work as representing anything of me the person; my cloth, as nice as I think some of them are, are not me, but merely what I make, what I do, a culmination of my technical knowledge and aesthetic preferences. As intimidating as it was to exhibit, I never felt my shawls were some mini-me's, or that my person was in some ways on display for scrutiny. (Except for my audacity to have a solo exhibit at my skill/knowledge level; or more specifically, to have an exhibit of shawls woven on all on straight draw.)

And so when I hear artists console me about how hard the life of art-making is, how we are constantly putting ourselves on show, I feel like a fake, that I'm pretending to belong to a club to which I'm not invited.


Finding a New Norm

Between October or November when I started to prepare for the exhibit and that evening on the first day of my exhibit when I finished "Deep", I was frantic, so I had no problem setting out an intelligent work schedule; I didn't need a schedule. I got up, went to whichever room I had to for whichever task on hand, and worked. My studio is next to the laundry, so we always had clean clothes, but they came out of the dryer and got put on the couch straight away, so for at least the month of January, Ben picked one shirt every morning, and I ironed one shirt every morning. The rest of the house was ignored.

I thought I deserved a little break, so after my parents left, for a few days I took it easy. I'd go back to bed after Ben went to work, and read magazines and glanced at weaving books. I roamed around the house in PJs all morning, with my trusty mug in hand. I just roamed, a little disgusted with the mess, but did nothing. I bought a beautiful book on bookbinding, and read it cover to cover.

Then I cleaned, vacuumed, ironed and got ready to resume a normal life. Except I didn't know what a normal art-making life was; I wasn't sure what my new norm should be. Because I'm home, it is always easy to start the day with a bit of housework, especially on a Monday mornings. It's getting cooler, which means I bake bread, and sometimes start a soup or stew while I do the dishes in the morning. And then I start cleaning the cupboard, and, wow, it's 3 in the afternoon.

I tried a regimented schedule: morning, loom time 10AM-12PM; afternoon, design/study time 1-3PM; loom time 3.30-5.30PM. This was slightly more productive, but not at all pleasurable and even if I had a good idea, I had to stop working on it and move on. Perhaps if I continued this regime a little longer, so my mind/body might have adjusted to it and the routine would become natural, but I was restless and I wanted a little more play, so I gave this up.

It's been downhill from there. I'm actively avoiding weaving now. The gallery needs more cashmeres; my sample exchange was due 28 February; two clients are waiting for me to contact them about baby blanket commissions, and there's a cashmere order from Japan pending (and winter is over in Japan!!)... And there's an Area Exhibit (small scale, but at present, the most important annual event for me) for which I should be preparing, in addition to the Guild's annual theme, and the Guild's other fiberart project... And I still don't want to do anything.

I did a tiny bit of bookbinding, and painted a couple of nice pages in the visual diary, and started some friends blogging and set up a quasi web site for one, and joined the Toastmasters; all of these have been good and enjoyable, but no weaving. And I can't explain why.

I'm Still Here

Hello. It's been such a long time since I posted about weaving. Tim and Claudia got Tim's web presence up just before they left on a long holiday, and they're due back next week, so that's how long.

I haven't not been thinking about weaving; in fact I found nine post drafts this morning, some with titles only, some with the first few sentences, and I remember writing two or three more and deleting them. But I haven't been weaving much. So what have I been doing since the end of the exhibit?

Since my parents left, I finished my income tax filing (which, as usual, took 2.5 days after 2-6 weeks of thinking about doing it); cleaned the house (this took a bit longer, and so far it's been just preliminary cleaning, no blitzing) and the studio (ditto); read up on and played with designing a corkscrew twill; wove three cashmere scarves for the gallery; finished/fringed a whole lot of stuff that have been sitting around for up to a year, and washed/finished half of them. I've also had a prolonged dental crisis, for which I could not get an appointment until last Wednesday, and a plumbing/draining disaster caused by the Nelson City Council digging up the road directly above my water main; I'm hoping at least the practicalities of the water saga will be resolved today, and the swelling of the right half of my face to go down completely. But what a boring list.

Creatively, I was art-ed out. I didn't want to plan weaving; I wasn't even enthused about thinking about weaving. I also had a hard time shooting photographs for our photo blog, so I went through the motion and didn't worry about the quality. And for a while, I didn't touch my camera, nor my computer.

I tried to weave off the warp ends that accumulated on the big loom; there were between one and three meters left of each of the four exhibit warps, and thought I would have fun making pieces of fabric just for myself. Not so. At all. I forgot how to have spontaneous fun, and I couldn't pick just-for-fun wefts: I knew why weft A melted into the warp and showed off the weave pattern, and why weft B shimmered, but I no longer had gut feelings, and for the life of me, could not see what I liked, and that is so uncharacteristic. So, after two samples for a warp-end fun piece, I managed to weave a tiny piece of fabric off of the last purple variegated warp used for "Deep". That was one full day's work. Day Two went a little more smoothly, as I decided on one weave structure for all the rest, and I concentrated on the weft colors only, but still, I never anticipated anything like that. In one piece, I used a rather rough blanket-singles in my favorite mid-navy-blue; it wove up much coarser than the merino and possum/merino/silk combination I've grown accustomed to, but the colors look delicious. Sadly, I haven't been able to wash these fabrics of the plumbing problem, but I will show you some when I've finished them.