Thursday, January 31, 2013

Tobias, Time-Soluable Resolution, and February

It goes like this. The family has four precious ones: W, H, J and D, and grandma has commissioned a blanket for all of them. Except a silly au pair washed J's in the washing machine and then stuck it into the dryer. So J has not had one for herself for most of the blanket's tenure, but her Dolly has.

As you know I just happened to have woven two more from this J's warp because I liked the draft, so J got her own, (the white one, with one face on each side,) and D hers yesterday. Mummy called Grandma and Grandma called me to tell me they arrived safely. Grandma also offered to pay for J's second one, but I declined; no child should have to suffer from an au pair's, (oh, what's the word,) unfamiliarity with wool, even though clear instructions were written and taped in the laundry room, from what I understand.

W was a bit sad J now has one for Dolly and one for herself; being the eldest, W takes care of small ones, including Tobias, his doll Grandma bought him when H was born. Well, second time lucky for Grandma, it just so happens I have a small piece I made from W's warp end, which sat on my chair in the basement since, well, I made W's blanket. (I was pretty sure the chair and the piece would have made an appearance on Unravelling several times, but I couldn't find it in Picasa...) Anyway, it's a little flat on account of my unsmall having sat on it from time to time, but Grandma said it didn't matter. so the little warp end piece left Nelson today to meet W and Tobias.

* * * * *

I finished my tax returns today. As as is customary, I proceeded to resolve to work on it more frequently so I don't have to feel overwhelmed and have a big annual Drama Queen week. But failing that, I decided that from the next return I will either try to get it done in the winter months, or failing that, I will work on it in the mornings and dither in the afternoons if I again find myself filing in panic in the dead of the summer.

* * * * *

Today and tomorrow we are supposed to have a heat wave, and not just a Meg Complains kind of a heat wave but a proper one; part of the North Island and the southern part of the South Island have recorded record highs, but to me Nelson felt cooler today than yesterday. At least we had breeze. They were predicting highs of nearly 40C in parts of the North Island, but I'm not sure if anyone got up there. We are having droughts all over, too, and bush fires, and in one instance the military used grenades in training amidst total fire ban in the whole district.

Still, ours is nothing like Australia. And so far, we haven't had floods in a while.

I think this summer has been, all things considered, a pleasant one in Nelson. As it usually is, but we had big floods last year, so this one feels extra quiet weather-wise. Still, I don't like February. When I lived in Minnesota, it was a whole month of holding my breath and wishing the cold and the gray days away. In Nelson, for me, it's a whole month of holding my breath and wishing the heat and the bright sun away. Some days the sun is so bright my brain hurts, and I have to keep the curtains closed, and my garden looks like, well, we won't go there.

Feb is the coldest month of the year in Yokohama and also the exam season, but for some reason I don't remember it having been hard on me, except the start of the hay fever.

And I can't wait to get back in March and get stuck in on the weaving and the garden. 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

And Counting...

I went to Bob Newhart's School of Accountancy; as long as I'm in the ball park, (he actually said, "within a buck or two," I think,) I'm fine, and since mine is such a tiny business, (I'm not legally required to file, that's how small I am,) I don't even bother claiming many things I'm entitled to. I just want to file my returns in order to be in the system and participate as an active, contributing member of the society, though my contribution is almost exclusively by way of consumption and not by income tax payment. Anyhoo, I've been dithering and working and dithering and working on my tax returns since Monday as it has to be filed before I go.

The thing is, it was actually nice in the days where I stuffed a year's worth of receipts in a rice cracker tin and waded through it once a year. Most things were paid with checks, so if I covered invoices, receipts and check stubs, I was almost done. Nowadays I write about five checks a year, but pay with credit card, electronic transfer, and PayPal, and cash once in a blue moon. And I collect paper receipts, emails, PDF downloads from websites' account history, and tiny, colorful Post It notes on which I scribble illegible dates, amounts and items/services purchased. And then there are currency conversions that doesn't show up on Visa until a few days later. (There is a fix to the last problem; I just haven't bothered to buy things from overseas NZ$.)

Briefly I set up a debit card so I could pay almost everything to do with MegWeaves with it, but the bank fee was too much for this business so I canceled that. 

A lot of bother would go away if I used fewer methods of payment, or opened a proper business bank account with credit card, or at least went though the bits more frequently than once a year. But it hasn't happened; I wonder if I am secretly enjoying this annual masochistic conundrum.

Anyhoo, later.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Ben's New Jacket

When I was supposed to be trying out new bras on Friday, Ben texted me to say his fav shop was having a sale and among other things were nice tweed jackets, so we met in the shop.  It turned out we both liked this one chocolate brown linen/cotton number, which fit him nicely.

I like buying clothes for/with Ben. He's lost a lot of weight and deserves a reward. But this piece cost a lot more than his pay grade, as it were, and Ben being a Jacket Man, he already has more jackets than pants. So I proposed we clean out his closet on the weekend and take an inventory. To be honest, I was going to propose we buy pants and perhaps a shirt or a pair of shoes instead. Besides, it's linen, and he never wears jackets in the summer.

Cleaning closets is something Ben may consider under extreme duress, and I had to wait until 3PM Saturday when he was persuaded to help me clean his closet. But it didn't take long, even with him putting on all of his pants. What we discovered were four pairs he'd bought/kept though he couldn't wear them, another pair he can wear but would be more comfortable in after loosing 2 more kgs, three pairs of shoes he'd bought but hadn't started wearing. Three pairs!!

While we cleaned, Ben told me that with the weight loss and him turning 50 in April, he wanted a fresh look. Nelson is a very casual place and his work place one of the most casual, (my previous chimney cleaner called it, "Oh, they have a come-as-you-are dress code,") so Ben's attires became less and less distinguishable from those of the students in the 12 years he's worked there. (Before that, he was a student there for three years.) Jeans, polo shirts and running shoes, in other words.

We threw away tired-looking items, downgraded a bunch to "home only", and set aside some still-OK pieces for charity. He still had more jackets than pants, but we don't need to top up the latter; he has enough shirts even if I didn't do the laundry for a month; and he has plenty of shoes. (Very important for diabetics to have comfortable shoes.) But he had only one other summer jacket. And I've always preferred nice pants, grown-up shirts and a jacket, even without a tie, for work.

That's how it came to be that we went to the store today to get him the jacket. He's very happy. It's his early 50th birthday, a big pat on the back for switching to a healthy life so quickly and effectively, and though this sounds a bit weird, a symbol for the first ten years of diabetes and, all things considered, dealing well with it.

People living with those with depression sometimes succubus to the same; at the least they have to live with the consequences. In my 10 years with it, a lot of things in our household went downhill, and this is another symbol that things are looking up for our team.

I'm hoping his new pride and energy is going to extend to home and property maintenance. Hint, hint!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Fatter, Older and Grumpier

Off and on I have lived in English-speaking environments for 52 years and still when folks ask me how I am I feel obliged to give the latest chapter and verse. But now that I'm growing older and grumpier, I've come up with the above as a default reply. I'm still trying it out with closest friends since I don't want to come across perpetually grumpy, or rude, but honestly, this is how I feel most days, And tired, for no good reason.

Last couple of week I woke up exhausted, some mornings almost unable to move, also a couple of sleepless nights, but I can't remember the correlation. One night I woke up with what I understand to be similar to an asthma attack; I've had this twice before during the height of the hay fever season. I rang to make a doctor's appointment at the start of the week, and I got one at the start of next week. (Happens a lot; NZ GPs are extremely busy, are yours? I could get an appointment with another doctor at my clinic in dire circumstances, but I need to see Dr Tom this time.)

And then I developed imaginary heart-related symptoms I learned about in high school because Dad's been threatening me that unless I loose weight I'll suffer from heart failure. Of course he is worried about me and is warning me so I don't suffer the same fate he has, but he's been slim all his life and for him being overweight is also a kind of moral decrepitude, almost a show of defiance on my part. The thought of the impending weight talk with Dad has weighed heavily, (ha ha!) on my mind these last few months.

I also found out the first Monday and Wednesday are holidays and Ben's work is closed on Tuesday so he's having a five-day weekend but I'm leaving at 6AM Monday and missing out time with him. (I knew about Wednesday but I thought he had this Monday off!) That makes me feels so sad.
Symbolic of these last couple of weeks has been this pile of papers I couldn't being myself to sort through, but more on this later. I also took a Blizzard Check from a long-over-due catch up with Kath and had a Bowen Technique treatment to loosen me up.

Finishing the two Hearts blankets in the previous post was kind of... not good, either. I didn't like the wobbliness of both, at all, and I wondered why I wasn't improving as a weaver, especially technically. I started to feel "less good "than, say, 2006/7, (even though I know that at least my tensions are much better than back then.) I wondered if I'm destined to go downhill from here on.

Then I washed the latest Toddler blanket and felt a little better. This was the sixths double-width weave that I can remember, and it presented the least problem. Well, none. A big difference was, the other five, from memory, was woven with 2/17 wool (110/2 New Zealand size,) at 18EPI, whereas this was threaded 30EPI/10DPI, three ends treated as one and in the same heddle. Wefts in the past varied, but this was a particularly fat and airy knitting yarn.

It has a fabulously bumpy rustic texture, which is usually what I try not to create. The blanket is heavy and falls on you like a spoiled dog or a sleepy baby. And I tried braiding instead of twisting, which I think suited the piece.
I had a lunch date with Pat on Friday. I was so tempted to cancel it and stay in bed but I made myself get up and get ready. The getting ready included: packing up two blankets to be posted, one blanket and one scarf to be delivered to galleries; go through the aforementioned pile of papers on my desk, which turned out to be a very small pile and took three minutes to go through and 20 more to take care of all but one task; and made a last minute shopping list of small gifts for home and errands. And a shower. In a couple of hours.

Pat and I had a nice lunch. I did most things on the list, and had time to look some more for a nice sketchbook. I may have found one but I was still unsure about the paper quality and felt tip pen so I didn't get it. I still had more than an hour left and the last item on my list was... ummm... bra-shopping. Which is difficult, not only because I'm short and fat and it was a hot afternoon and I felt sweaty, but in New Zealand, it's hard to find bras with large circumferences and small cup sizes. (Whereas in Japan, it's impossible to find bras with large circumferences.) So even though there was a good sale, I decided not worry about it until winter when at least I didn't feel so sweaty.

* * * * *

Off and on in my life I've kept a diary/journal in my life, but as my life, identity and Unravelling have merged I've found a separate diary redundant. I've been enjoying Jane's 30 Years Ago Today and have wanted to do something, though.

I tried a gratitude diary a few years ago, starting on Jan 1. Most days started with, "I'm grateful for having Ben, for being a weaver," followed by a few lame, not very reflective items like, "good strawberries". Occasionally Ben didn't appear. By about Jan 8, I only had the staple, somewhat obligatory starts. (I was busy that year as my sister's family was visiting that week.) By around Jan 14, I had a few, "See Wednesday," and the like, and I abandoned it when I had several consecutive days of, "Ditto."

While lunching with Pat, we discuses among other things good diet and exercise, and Pat casually said something like, "'should' are hard,' which led me to come up with the idea of keeping a "should have, could have, would have, wished had done" diary, totally not in a regretful, reprimanding way, but in a laughing-at-myself, not-taking-life-too-seriously self. I'd imagine exercise will feature a lot if I did this, but beyond that, not knowing what else crops up could be half the fun.

What do you think?

* * * * *

EDIT: There are people for whom it is extremely hard to lose weight by conventional measures. Although the primary reason I quit going to the gym, and a big one at that, was because the boom-boom of the music kept ringing in my head and deprived me of sleep, I also no longer wished to deal with the puzzlement and discomfort of gym staff at the monthly weigh in, because I was there all the time but still did not loose weight nor girth after two years. Likewise, doctors and nutritionist have been puzzled by my predicament, and though nobody has said it out loud, I'm sure some have thought I am dishonest or cheating.

Sometimes it's not all the fat person's fault. 

On the other hand, I have not had any serious medical examination as to why I can't lose weight, because for starters I don't know where to go in this little town, I'd imagine it would cost a lot, and lastly, but surprisingly importantly, even I keep hoping that with effort, exercise and a good diet, I can still slim down like any normal person.

And being told I must slim down since I was nine, it's become part and parcel of being me, and the matter, well, hasn't sat at the top of my priorities, even though I'd imagine I'd lead a happier life otherwise. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Sunny Sunday, Mundane Monday

Coffee Ben made me yesterday morning had a funny, Ghostbusters Ghost face on it. So I took a picture and put it on my Facebook profile. Then I took a picture of the two.

I've been trying to get excited about photography again but it's not working.   
In my overzealous cleanup of photos Friday, I deleted the one of The Suter on my Outlets/Contact page, so we went there yesterday only to find the shrub in front is a bit overgrown and from no angle could I see the word, "Suter". Maybe later this week.

* * * * *

I know sketchbook doodling is a great exercise and a potential hobby, but I don't get too excited about it because my drawing is only ever so so, unlike Ronette's class it's only A3 or A4 size, and I can't use my fav felt tip pens because the papers are so cheap. And I've been on the lookout for better ones but precisely because my drawing is only so so, I've been reluctant to buy anything but the cheapest or the most standard.

Then I saw Catherine telling me you've really got to like the one you draw in. So I went to a couple of places in town but I haven't really seen one I think I can draw on with felt tip pens. Maybe I'll make one, or maybe I'll look for some in Japan. I love the idea of having beautiful sketchbooks. But if I find one, I'll have to improve my drawing, too.

Catherine spoke of the time we gesso'ed smaller pieces of paper for class in 2010 and I used a lot of fabric scraps. I had considered mixing my textiles with my drawing, and had earlier decided against it, but she revisited the possibilities, and I ended up reading a little bit about gesso. Did you know that I could spray-paint gesso onto wool cloth and Ph-wise it won't harm the wool? 

* * * * * 
The Toddler Blanket came off the loom last night and today our place looks like a sweatshop. Two Hearts pieces were finally washed and pressed this morning and now needs drying and clipping the fringe ends. The white one, (top left) will go to the same wee girl whose first blanket was put into the clothes dryer by an au pair. The proper commission blanket, (top right) must now rest for a couple of days before fringing, washing, etc. This is for Hearts Blanket's wee baby sister.

The gray Hearts is the one where I deliberately put two faces on the two sides after I did that by mistake in the first commission piece. I can't decide if I want to keep this or sell this from Refinery, but I know this and the Refinery is a good match. My short, gold one (bottom left) is ready to be fringed, but Ben's not too keen on having it live in our car for emergency picnics. Because it's pink!

* * * * * 

Mom's been too generous with her students she's in a pickle. The 8-shaft she bought last year, without having had the time to give it a good go, has been taken over by one of them. Mom She has two RH, another 2-shaft, two 4-shafts, (one a floor counterbalance, another a table loom that irritatingly "resets" every shed,) and the new 8-shaft but having taught twills, and especially diamond twills, all three students want to do those. At once. So Mom hasn't had a loom of her own for a while again. Her own fault, but Ben started looking for used ones online. Because Mom's fav was the giant Glimakra 8-shaft counterbalance, she wants something more stable than any of the looms she now has, but budget is tight, as is space, and multishaft floor looms in Japan isn't exactly in abundance, so things aren't looking exactly rosy at the moment, but we'll have to find a remedy soon. I'm thinking a solid table loom would probably be better than a floor, but we'll see.

(There seems to be a big gap between the quality of amateur/hobby looms and those intended for "professional"; there's a big gap in the prices, totally different dealers sell them, and the "professional" grade seems to have fewer shafts, but I could be wrong on the last count.)

* * * * *

Found some interesting finds while looking for a loom for Mom:

A miniature Japanese loom on which you can actually weave - it comes with a stick shuttle! Click on the line below the photo to see three views.

Antique bamboo reeds, 20 of them, in a box on auction. I'm so tempted but it's from an antique shop and they state not all may function.

And Tokyo Agriculture and Technical University has a museum full of models of regional looms as well as some real ones. I would like to go there next month

Saturday, January 19, 2013


Goodness me, Ben lost so much weight he's got his wedding ring on!

* * * * *

Though my mom would vehemently deny it, she is a good cook. She always had a solid repertoire of kid-friendly dishes and almost everything tasted wonderful. As a kid, I never went to friends' place and thought anything tasted better than Mom's. She was always, and still is a killer fryer, too, and Ben and I are critical when we go to Tempura or Tonkatsu restaurants in Japan, and a few Fish and Chips places fail here.

Mom wasn't so into trying new dishes out of cookbooks, magazines or telly programs, but she was into health and organics since the start of the 70's and she certainly tried new ingredients. Hence the "almost" everything: I remember a particularly stiff bread made with organic brown flour. Though my sister and brother just put up with it, I grew to love brown rice and brown rice Omochi so Mom still tries to get them when I go home.

She hated thinking of what to cook, though, and at around 4PM she jokingly complained why we insisted on eating dinner every single night. While we would have been thrilled to be on a rotation of Hamburgs, (meat patties with veggie sides, no buns,) omelets, Tonkatsu, Japanese style curry and perhaps chargrilled horse mackerel, she never compromised and we got freshly cooked meals every night. My sister learned to cook by helping at Mom's side; I usually studied before dinner; guess which worked better in the long run?

Mom loved to cook beans. And she cooked a lot at once. And it appeared only she loved eating beans after Day 1. Came Day 3, she'd start worrying about the beans going bad and we had to have eight or ten beans with every meal, individually rationed in delicate Japanese dishes, and no matter how early I got up, (and from about Age 13 onwards I was often the first to get up,) somehow the mysterious Bean Ration would appear on the table! Of course when we were done with one lot, she would cook the next with gusto.

* * * * *

Among the benefits of trying to live more healthily has been learning how to make Hummus. My friend Trish told us a decade ago it's dead easy, but Trish being among my Super Cook friends, I didn't look up recipes until a few weeks ago. And it is dead easy and even I can do it.

I've reached that dangerous point where now I just wing it without consulting recipes but relying on taste, and I use as much garlic as I can be bothered to peel, (a lot,)  and substantially less oil and salt but that's a sensitive area because salt does make things tastier, and oil does make them creamier. We now have a constant supply of hummus, but Ben doesn't touch them much. Boo hoo. 
This week I made one with roasted-slightly-burned pine nuts, and another with roasted red pepper and walnuts. The amount of bean-cooking water is another potential mystery to me; on Day 1 the white one was a tad too stiff, the red a tad too runny; now the white one is stiff but the red one is OK having expelled the extra water, it appears. They could both use a bit more oil. This batch, I also cooked the beans a little too long, (I put the timer on and went downstairs to weave!) so they are not as crunchy/textured as Ben like. I may have to start making His and Her Hummus separately in the future. 

* * * * * 

Ben thinks I make too much hummus at once. But I don't ration them.

* * * * *

This is a post from my friend Catherine's blog: 14 Reasons to Paint your Self-Portrait. I don't know about "1... (the model is) prepared to sit for as long as it takes," but if you like to draw the same model over months and years as I do, self-portraits can be addictive. Though for me it comes and goes; love it sometimes, loathe it at others.

* * * * *
The "clueless" drawing at the end of the hallway, as seen from the entrance of the living room. Just like having cones sit on the railing for weeks and months, the "looking" helps to endear me to my drawing, but so far hasn't helped me in knowing how it should be "finished".

Friday, January 18, 2013

What? Silver??

I'm posting a small pic of the one in progress because it looks closer to real life. The two pinks in the warp are blue pinks, and the natural is mohair. This weft has tiny flecks of colors in it, and the light blue fleck stands out in combination with the pinks, more than the browns and blacks. When I turned off the florescent light above, the cloth had an eerie blue shine, almost silvery-looking, in contrast to the previous almost-gold-if-you-insist. I included my cushion cover below which is in achromatic grays.

I'll never understand everything I want to understand about colors.

I'm Not Sitting in a Fetal Position, Though

Lest you thought I was back to that state, no, no. Yesterday I finished weaving the first toddler blanket with the weft of my choice, and I didn't have enough, I only got 95cm, and in sunlight, (I've woven under florescent after the halogen lights kept dying a few years ago, but now I have a better sparky and may discuss going back to halogen,) the values and colors of the weft are too varied I plunged straight into the second piece.
The weft is a coarse for a weaver who usually weaves with cashmere or merino, but since I suspect the weft was Mom's creation, I think I might full this fully and keep it in our car as our picnic blanket. I do love the colors and the pattern and it's not too pale that I'd hesitate to put it on the ground. 

The new weft is a store-bought knitting yarn, something I bought some years ago when I was so dismayed at the lack of weaving yarn shops in New Zealand in general and in my region in particular, and when I thought I'd better get used to knitting yarns. I loved it so much I bought "many" balls - can't remember exactly but 10, 12 or 20, and have only used it once for Ben when Mom gave me some leftover cashmere when she first embarked on that journey. Mine was woven in 2002 (which means this could be a scanned film photo,) and it still goes on our laps on cool evenings, but in combination with pink the weft look darker and less brown, which worries me a little. This warp contains more air and will give a better hand.   
(I went looking for a photo of this piece thinking I posted it here some time, and I may have, but looking I did some overzealous culling of online pics and ended up spending a couple of hours having to relocate and reinstate them; I still have to go get another one of the Suter... But it was interesting looking at photos of weaving and design work I did not too long ago that I had totally forgotten about. I found more than a few ideas I told myself I must revisit, and some interesting drafts.)  

Life, Eh...

I've found life overwhelming, from time to time. I know it happens to everybody, but I do worry about me. Sometimes. And then ignore my worries, other times. 

Back in October or November I was thinking, and was going to post, that I thought I was really over my mild-to-moderate depression, that one can really get over it, be cured, rather than only learn to cope with it. I could see my problems in their correct proportion, and worries weren't getting in the way of my moving forward. 

Then came the hideous hayfever season, and at first I didn't realize the pills weren't working and I thought I was getting depressed again as some of my symptoms are very similar; general sluggishness/sleepiness, insomnia, mild but persistent sinus headache. Then came the sensitivity to light and this eyebrow-raising I do to try to open my eyes wider that's a sure sign things are going downhill. (If you've been to South Pacific Islands, you may have been greeted by strangers with a smile and raising of both eyebrows to say, "hey, there!" - that's my sign; when I start to do that, I know I'm not well.) And for a couple of days I took meds leftover from the end of 2011 when I was well enough and the doc said I can stop. But I don't like to self-medicate, especially with prescription drugs, albeit my dosage is laughably low, so I didn't continue. And I didn't go see the doc about me because we were more concerned about Ben's blood sugar levels at that time, and I honestly didn't feel I was sick enough to warrant seeing him. 

Then Andrea told me no conventional pills were working on many hayfever suffers this year, and I learned many of us had similar symptoms. (I never ask about the eyebrow thing, though; I think that's just me. I have a cousin who suffered from much worse depression most of his life and he's done it as long as I can remember, though I've never talked to him about it.) So I got on with life. I quit taking my hayfever meds, resorted to herbal fixes including St John's Wort tea, and just wove and wove and wove.

But I kept feeling physically tired. I had a couple of spells of insomnia, but on the whole I say I've slept average to well; I just wake up tired every morning. I sometimes collapse with a sudden onset of sleepiness midday and nap for between ten minutes to an hour, though I try not to if I've been awake the previous night.

Different things worry/bother me: receiving emails that shouldn't bother me; lack of reply to my emails; friends who want to see me; friends who can't right now; the garden, the house, the money situation, (we have house/car insurance in Dec and health insurance in Jan so this is the worst time of the year every year,) my weight/health/general appearance, (whilst Ben looks great compared to just three months ago.) And yes, I worry about my mind, not that I'm going seriously crazy, but that I'm going to be unable to do things productively for a spell. And that this is not a good time because I've got to get things done and I've got to go home a week sooner than I thought at the start of the week.

With depression, a bit of exercise is good, and for me, I tend to garden for this reason; once out there I can really concentrate on the immediate task in the garden and I've tried to get out there, even for a short while, but anxiety sets in when I think of what all needs doing and what my neighbors must think, (I think they are used to it by now,) and how I'm going to negotiate with Ben about the different tasks as we seem to seldom agree re. the garden. Though the last several years I worry a bit less about the negotiations because, let's face it, he doesn't get out there. But I am constantly overwhelmed and obsessed by the enormity of the task.

Sometimes I don't exercise when I know I should and could, and this is a new discovery. I find the mind gets active when the body moves. And you know I have conversations in my head that I try so hard to quieten; not schizophrenic voices but me rehearsing, me going over past conversations, me revising what I should have said, etc., etc., etc. Well, sometimes when my mind is still I also try to stay physically still so as not to awaken those conversations. So even though I know exercise is good, I sit or lie still. Crazy, eh.

I self-medicated with depression meds again the first couple of days this week because I think I know my physical symptoms now, but I can't gauge if I'm just justifying it. And then I think of going to see Doc Tom but I think I'm not sick enough.

And the weather has been insane. It's been unseasonably cool this week. And there is a rat that visits our fig tree right outside the study window.

Yeah, I'm going a little nutty...

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Weaver to Weaver Reminder

Dear participants,

It's now two and a half weeks into 2013, so that long since the last post date of the envelope/s, and even with the post-holiday rush we can probably assume most all envelopes should have been delivered to their destinations.

If you have not done so already, please email the sender/s of your envelope/s to let them know it/they arrived safely. If you do not know the sender details, please contact me. I am getting some concerned enquiries.

If you have not received the requisite number of envelopes, please let me know how many you signed up for, (i.e. how many you sent,) and from whom you already receive, so I can dig up my records and locate the missing one/s.

Email me about any other related concerns/problems. 

And lastly, if you posted about what you sent/received but it is not included in the bottom of this post, drop me a line or leave a link in the comment here, please.

Thank you.

Good day!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Golly Gee. Yikes.

Did I say I am going home in four weeks minus a few days? No, it's three weeks minus a few days. I just noticed it this morning. And in that time I have to complete a toddler blanket. And file my taxes.
The blanket is progressing. I like the pattern, but it's quite big and I have to stand back to see it.
I like the weft, too. I wasn't sure where it came from but I now suspect it might have been one of Mom's handspun projects, undyed natural cream with some natural grays in two ply, and then plant-dyed. There are a lot of color patches appearing, but the values don't vary as much as the top picture. 
And occasionally there are these beautiful rust-orange flecks. I love it.

The problem is, I've woven with five out of the nine balls I own and got 55.5cm, so I assume with all nine I would get around 99.9cm, and I wanted at the very least 105cm but preferably 110-115cm. So I might have to weave a second one with the darker brown in the sample, which is a commercial knitting yarn; it has silk, is lighter and softer than the slightly straw-like feel of the current weft, but I really wanted the yellower gray. I suspected this might be the case so I have enough warp for two, but I have to put a rush on. As usual.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

We Return to Normal Broadcast

Ben went back to work yesterday after a three-week break. We didn't do much on account of Ben's tennis elbow, (cleared by the physiotherapist yesterday), concentrating on our diet, (on-going), and my twisted-bruised-but-not-broken ankle, (98% good.) The ankle was an annoying one; I could walk on it right after I twisted it, but the foot was so swollen I couldn't fit it into a shoe or sandal for two weeks. At the drawing class Saturday I warned Ronette that a shoe might come off, but I managed to keep it on.

We changed our diet and portions surprisingly painlessly over the three weeks, and feel pleased with ourselves. In fact, reducing the portions was so easy we continue to be surprised how little food we ate over three weeks without feeling hungry. And there were always fruits or tomatoes in the bowl. Ben exercised regularly and new pairs of pants he got in late November now look too big. And his blood sugar level is back to not exactly where it was a year ago, but slightly better!   

I often "dilute" my cooking with relatively undetectable ingredients. For example, I use large amounts of eggplants and zucchinis in meatloaves and pasta dishes, oatmeal instead of flour, and chopped up leaves (cabbages are best) in stews, soups and sauces. I also started keeping in the fridge this soy bean concoction, (soak, cook with maybe a cabbage leaf, and blitz with some of the liquid,) which works surprisingly well where I would have wanted butter and flour or cream before. Using more produce tastes better, but has also reduced our starch intake. Ben started playing around with his own new tricks in a similar vein, and our meals don't feel so heavy. And as a nice surprise, we're using so much less dish detergent with reduced use of fats.

We use a lot of vinegar, but this year with the bumper crop of plums, I've put plums in just about everything instead: salads, pork and chicken dishes, even in our sorbet and shakes for an intense sweet-and-sour kick. And I made a lot of "sorbet" - in quotes because I only cut up plums, add other cut fruits or berries, add lemon, lime or orange juice if there is not enough liquid, blitz with a stick mixer, freeze, and mix once or twice if necessary. This is how I survived the heatwave. No sugar, but once I added a little bit of honey, and that gave a wonderful aroma.

I'm a little worried about keeping up this way of eating now that we are back to normal life. I worry Ben will slip into rushed-sandwich-no-exercise routine; already he is not on his machine as much. But the amount of weight and fat he lost must boost his energy level, (he's so laid back I can't tell from the outside,) and I'm hoping it is going to keep him moving. Me, I started exercising until the ankle incident, and am slightly afraid to get back into the routine. I have, though, been doing a lot of housework since the weekend and mixing it up with extra going up/down the stairs and some arm stuff.  

I also worry about our eating with the change of the season. We have wonderful fresh produce until around Easter, and then the air starts to cool down, and we start to think about comforting soups and stews and that's when our resolve will be tested.

In case you wonder, Ben still cooks with bacon; that and bonito flakes are his stock bases, but he uses much less and uses a wider variety of veggies and herbs and spices. (He's big on hot spices.) I'm also experimenting with vegetable stock and hope to make my own garam masala and curry paste. We haven't tried to reduce our animal protein, but it has gone down because we don't crave it. But not milk, nor cheese. We have consciously reduced starch and simple grains with portion control, but with added veggies, we haven't felt hungry. We have stopped late night ice cream completely, though, because the fresh fruits have been so fabulous this season. I need to start thinking of winter alternatives, but at this rate, we may not need any.

The magazine I subscribe to have been on the same wavelength as me; they had feature articles on food and supplements, (I quit them some years ago,) two weeks in a row.  

Four weeks from yesterday I shall get on a plane and go home for six weeks. I've started getting more serious about what needs doing before I go. Yesterday I finished my Sketchbook Project sketchbook, (so unexciting I couldn't even bring myself to photograph,) threaded enough of the pink baby blanket so I can finish it this morning and start sampling, and put all my "to do" pieces of papers on the desk to be prioritized this afternoon. I still have to do my tax returns, but with four weeks to go, I can also weave or tidy the garden or tackle super simple sewing projects waiting on the couch.

This happens often; once summer comes and everybody's garden looks fabulous and veggies and fruits growing and our place looks like weedland, I start to look forward to what I hope to do to in the coming autumn/winter. This year I'm almost giddy became I don't have a big projects in the winter, and I've amassed plants, fertilizer and seeds which were supposed to go in this spring when I was defeated by hay fever.

What else was in my oath? Italian: it's been more like ever three or four days rather than every day, but I have not walked away from it, and surprising myself with what I remember from the course in 1995. Yesterday was the days of the week. Today, I think I shall do the months. No progress with Shakespeare; that book is too too heavy.

Annabelle has an easel in her living room where she puts the latest drawing of interest and considers if more work would improve the piece. I have an easel but have never put it up because my house is already filled with my weaving stuff and I guess I've never done serious drawing at home. I had my purple music/weaving-draft stand in my stash room up for some time, and this week I have the pieces I did on Saturday just inside the door so I can see it from the living room and the hallway. This is an interesting process; I can't think of what I can do to improve it, but my drawings collectively, for the first time, have become not just a throwaway play things but something to continue thinking about. 

We've had tremendous rain in the last 24 hours. I love rain, but at this rate parts of Nelson and all over the country may flood again. Which is not a bad thing in part of Canterbury where there've been scrub fires.  But nothing like Australia. Goodness, in Australia, areas about the size of the greater Auckland Region (approx 5000 sq km?) has already burned. I wished we could send even just a wee bit of this rain westward.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Envelope from Julie

My third envelope came from Julie mid-week. There was so much in it I had to give it time to get my head around it.
There were: photos, including three from Edinburgh, (we went there on our honeymoon in 1990 and then again in 2003,) and closeups of plants; lovely threads and a fine woven sample; a box of conté. 
A lovely letter, and more images. My immediate favorites were:
Zebra stripes, which, funnily, I kept thinking were tiger stripes until just a moment ago when I uploaded this photo. It's the kind of patterns we can weave easily if we had a Jacquard, but simplified, I should be able to do a dumbed down version on 16, but then would I like the dumbed down version? The task would be made easier, too, with dyeing before or after weaving, but you know me; for now that feels like cheating. So now I'm thinking can I make stripes deceptively wobbly by using textures? Because I'm not interested in recreating the exact graphics of zebra stripes, but I am interested in weaving wobbly irregular stripes. The clear-cut division or black or white stripes attractive; the expression/nuance in the cloth can be made by varying the stripe width; and 
the colors of these ceramic pieces. Also the similar-but-not-the-same-ness of the angels. There are more vibrant images in the mix that no doubt will come into play as well.
Even the postage sticker is an example of how these things can be done nicely. And I giggled at the blue supermarket plastic bag in the top pic. I used to be and still am fascinated by ordinary items from different places, and make a point of visiting supermarkets and ordinary stationary/bookshops in every country I visit. At once point I had a sizable collection of ordinary pencils and ballpoint pens and Air Mail stickers from different countries; my nephews grew up with toothbrushes and toothpastes from every country we visited/lived in. Globalization takes away the fun of travel, I say. 

Thank you, Julie. much to think about, much to simply enjoy! 

Links to some of the other envelopes can be found at the bottom of this post.

Saturday, January 12, 2013


I went to Ronette's one-day drawing class today. It was touted as having an emphasis on composition, using pencils and water-soluable pencils and crayons, working on smallish pieces.

Now, I am not totally devoid of ideas when it comes to drawing, but usually in Ronette's class there is a bit of instruction or direction at the start; there was a minimum amount of that. Add the fact I have no idea how to use the water-soluble material, and I don't paint, and I was a newbie in a masterclass. I kept working with color pencils and crayons and then promptly ruining them just dabbing them with water, and after a while I just drew. At the same time I stopped using the sheets with small gesso-ed windows and drew on the full size of the mostly-around-A2 sheets. (I must add, I was getting somewhat used to different ways water color pencils behave.)

And then, during the last break, I spilled water on all of my afternoon work and prepared sheets. What serendipity! Sam said I should take a brush and go over the colors and go outside the lines. And I did, and I liked it. The two drawings on which the water damage was the worst came out the best. I even tried recereating the spill on a third drawing as well. 
The model was young and had a lovely face, particularly attractive eyes. I tried so hard to get her head/face in this one, but couldn't, though I did draw a couple of drawings of her faces, but neither did her any justice.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


I started threading the pink blanket yesterday. After about 60 ends, I sensed I made a mistake to check. Usually I don't mind fussy threading, and this isn't that fussy, but there was something about this that bothered me, and I didn't know why. So I pulled out the last, oh, 40 following the mistake and walked away.
I felt the sample I made in 2:2 twill last winter, and confirmed 30EPI worked with either of the brown wefts I intend to use. So, what's wrong?

Oh, I was going to have to sleep on it.

In bed, I knew the twill proportion was the key to solving this mystery; it was something about the proportion of the warp thickness vs the weft and how the shape was going to come out, but it was a conundrum.

Well, Duh!!!

When I got up I just knew the three warp ends (natural and two pinks) were supposed to be threaded together! So, even though it has 30EPI, the draft pattern is coming out fatter and squarer as if it's 10EPI.
Duh! Duh! Duh!!

But the threading is so much quicker now, so I forgave me. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

A Summer's Day in Nelson

Two tuis sitting just outside our living room window. (Sorry for the yikesy photo; I was looking right into the afternoon sun.)
Thunder and lightening, and wait for it, wait for it...
Rain, tuis chirping, and neighbors in all direction clapping and cheering!

Plus we put stakes on our tomato plants and did a wee bit of weeding. Plus I enjoyed my new invention - mint tea and honey sorbet. Plus I started working on the Sketchbook Project sketchbook, albeit tentatively. 
 But that was hardly enough rain for my veggie patch. So off I go.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Revisiting the Cashmere Warp

Is it just me, or is it common among weavers that with the passing of weeks, months, or years, one's weaving doesn't appear as tragic as first suspected? I still hold that pieces from the last cashmere warp were not sufficiently interesting for Santa Fe, but on their own, they have their merits. I wove them starting with the far left piece in the December pic and I did a lot of thinking, and rethreading, in the course of one warp, so I'll follow that order here.
The first: best crafted, light-weight and soft, it's a good product. I'm still hoping to weave an achromatic series based on these squares for the local gallery. This piece is going to be a gift to an important relative-by-marriage who was widowed last year; to me, the personable, quiet feel suits her. I'm pleased about the piece in a non-challenging way, but it still does not present close-up interests, and with these sedate colors, it's doesn't check the "bold" requirement.   
Fun. I actually like it, but my frustration shows and it's not as well-woven. Most definitely bolder looking, and with more saturated colors there is scope for further development. I'm not sure about the close-up interest: if I make the weave structure within each block more interesting, will it detract from the longer-distance view? The only way to know appears to be to sample, sample, sample. This is also potentially a gift on my next trip.   
The enigma; the "Do as I say, not as I do" piece; the "opposite of what I tell my mother" piece. I hold, very strongly, that if one wants to show the structure, one must restrain the colors/values/textures, and the structural pattern is what I want to make stand out in the first instance in my weaving. So I made a simple structure.

Perhaps if the two sets of lighter warps on the sides were as saturated as the middle, I would have been less displeased. I so don't like the unplanned, unsophisticated, anything-goes look, (even though in my head I had though I had things pretty well planned, and the color gradation did work well enough,) I'm trying hard to restrain myself from telling you how much in polite company.
Still, there are unintended points of interest, I won't deny that.
And with super careful planning, there may be scope for development, but knowing my control-freak-ness, I think it's better if I did the "unplanned/spontaneous" thing in the warp colors/textures/proportion and threading, and then tried to bring harmony to the cloth with the treadling and weft choice.
Funny how colors I don't usually like worked well in this; it's The Goddess of Weaving tellng me not to be complacent in any aspect. 
This is the draft, and I was livid by the time I wove this so there is so much weft packed into this piece and it weights twice as much as the first piece. I'm going to give this to Dad as he made a comment about how nice a pale blue looked somewhere a year ago, and he never talks about colors and such. And I am most definitely not getting around to weave his ruana in time. I also experimented with wider fringes which totally didn't work.

One of the problems I have with my cashmere pieces is the fringes. I like tight, orderly fringes so I tend to twist them a lot, which works well for my other wools and cottons, but I need to leave more breathing space for cashmere, or else they come out too skinny and hard relative to the woven part of the scarves. This is why I personally prefer hems, but this shouldn't be so hard to resolve. She says, gritting her teeth... 
My fav from this warp was the warp-end swatch,with sufficient close-up interest. In other words, fussy, and not bold. This one looks to me very much like a kimono accessory, and I can't figure out if it's the colors, scale,or the simplicity of the repeat units.

In the course of working with this warp, I realized I have used my best yarns to make visually the least interesting pieces because I've been gun-ho on taking the best advantage of the yarn's softness and lightness; it's been a good marketing strategy, and the galleries sell on this strength. And to not overburden the yarns, I've preferred the gentle four-shaft Jack for these at the cost of more interesting structural patterns. (This was the second time I put cashmere on the 16-shaft in the seven years I've been weaving with cashmere.) But there is scope for so much more experimentation and sampling.So much so my brain almost hurts!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Day 3

Of 2013. Let's see. In two days, among other things:

The cashmere pieces were mended, fringed, washed and pressed. The three scarves are OK as products; at least two will be suitable as gifts when I go home.

I started to read the 70 pages of Introduction and Prefaces to Riverside Shakespeare; I've a long way to go before I get to the plays and I won't be taking the book to Japan. It's amazing how much general information resides in that tome that I guessed existed but paid no attention to in the three and a half years in college; back then I only read the plays on the syllabus and the intro to each play. The reading has been interesting, but the book is heavy so I might have to make myself a beanbag pillow of some kind to hold the book. I am enjoying reading The Assassin's Cloak more; I won't be taking this to Japan, either, but I'm up to January 9 now. I like the "little bit every day" aspect.

I haven't drawn. We haven't gardened. But we've watched some movies, among them, or favorite baseball movie of all times, A League of their Own.

Italian? Well, yes! On New Year's Day, I thought I'd like to learn the names and locations of the 20 regions. Some of the names I knew turned out to be not of regions but of provinces, which are sometimes the same as the famous cities. 19 of the 20 regions are further divided into provinces, which are further divided into comune or municipalities. That's fine, I didn't intend to learn them all. But in 2014, apparently, the number and boundaries of the provinces are changing in a big way, so I'll stop at the regions.

I've been busy locating the regions and their capital cities on the map and saying their names out loud, but the visual approach, color-coding, learning the shapes, has been a gentle way back into studying the language and history than lists of words and phrases. I was surprised I could write down "map of Italy without colors but with regions' names" without thinking, (I studied Italian in 1995 for three or four months,) though I just strung words together and don't know if that is the way a native speaker would say describe it.

Yesterday I realized I wanted to learn the regions first because I wanted to learn about the characteristics of the city states I've read in Renascimento history and novels; I had this romantic notion that the modern political jurisdiction would overlap with the city states boundaries. Well, not exactly. I was also fascinated to read about the diverse dialectic/language variations in the north, (a subject out friend Gino has an abundance of knowledge,) and some of the history lessons from my school days came into use.

The foot is fine; it doesn't hurt and nothing is broken, but it swells if I stand/walk on it for too long. Yesterday it was too swollen to fit into any shoes. Ben thought it looked like a latex glove filled with fluid, and that's exactly how it felt; movement didn't hurt but vibrated. I was hoping it will turn spectacularly purple so I can take a commemorative shot, but this morning, Day 4, the swelling is down, it's not as hot as the previous three days, and looks ever-so-slightly bluer than the other foot. I'll stay off it another day or two, then maybe I can weave on the Jack standing up by the weekend.

I leave for Japan in a month and a day. In that time, I must work on and send off the Sketchbook Project sketchbook (postmark Jan 15), thread (lots of ends) and weave one baby blanket, wet-finish that and another and post the two, and do my tax returns, (2 days work stretched into weeks and weeks of agony time permitting.)  And come up with interesting "packages" of inspiration for Mom and her students.

Meaning, I better go and work on these things pronto. But, oh, what a dry post without a picture. So here's my "garlic" flower. I think it's green onion, or even brown, but I can't remember planting anything but cloves from half a dozen bulbs of garlic and one shallot. I did have brown onion a few weeks ago. It's about as tall as me.
Books and magazines said I should dig up the garlic when the tips of the shoos start to turn brown, but some are too tiny, while some look ready. And, lo, there are brown onions and not shallots! That's what you get from hit-and-miss gardening, but I'm happy because this is the first year I got more than one shoot of garlic from several bulbs. I think I'll keep some still in the ground, though.  

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Day in the Life of Looms 2013

Mine, 1:00 PM, 1/1/2013, Nelson, New Zealand, 41°18 0"S / 173°13'10"E.
Sample Loom: it is not that I dislike the loom nor the warp that this loom has the same warp as it did in 2011, but it must mean I have not done much contemplative weaving in a while. I do vacuum the top of the warp often, in fact.
Klik: Nth sample for the Friendship piece is still on. I have plans for this warp.
Jack: joyweaving.

Off to a wonderful, colorful, productive or relaxing, even-tensioned year, everybody!

Well, it's Here.

And as I said, 2013 looks like any old lovely 2012 day, weavers, so we can carry on winding warps, bobbins and pirns, passing shuttles, and contemplate cloths.

I don't know if this is unusual or even worrying, but I sometimes practice/rehearse/revise, um, my "speech", (speech being one or a few sentences not a entire thesis, and I know why I do this.) Sometimes I put myself in hypothetical situations. Sometimes I go over a real life conversation and "re-say" things that should have been said better. Sometimes I say thing out loud so I can physically hear myself to see if I'm saying what I mean, if I'm articulate and correct. Just Saturday morning, I tried to answer an imaginary new acquaintance who knew nothing about weaving or textiles why I weave; I came up with this: "If I didn't weave, I would have been a different person, (living a different life.)" Later that afternoon while weaving my purple piece and feeling giddy with the physical movement, I felt how accurate that statement was.
I haven't done anything on the list today yet; in fact I must reread it as I only remember Italian, Shakespeare, and Healthy. And Dye. But I started reading The Assasin's Cloak first thing this morning, and it was a nice way to start a year. Trust me, the content isn't nearly as horrible or exciting as the title suggests. I know what I'm doing with in Italian today, and I'm going to draw a little bit, too.

But first, I'm off to shoot my looms.