Fun with Paper

I drew on and painted postcards. (The colors are less nuanced and more childlike. The red is saturated blue-red, and overall feel is more vibrant. The pic below is a better indicator.)
I painted these (and this many more) to use in collages. I needed orange bits.
And I used up orange in my tiny travel watercolor set, and nearly finished red. I know nothing about conventional watercolor use, but I love the idea of using my tiny kit; it makes one feel artist-y. It's silly to try to paint inside the line in more or less even saturation, like gouache, but these paints are wonderfully saturated and this is what I've been doing. I practiced on scrap paper so I can learn a little more about the paint, but it's oh-so delicate. And just when I thought I could make pale, watery areas, I'd find "mistakes", and you know, with watercolor, you can't have do-overs.
And then my paint set; it's made by a reputable Japanese company with a website and prices for all sets and replacements, (a third cheaper than most brands,) except I can't buy online, and they don't state an email address nor a fax number as their contact. I might try one of the vendors at Amazon.co.jp, the price doubles as I haven't found a way to combine orders, and I'm only asking them to send to Mom. So until I go home next I'll have to mix with my student-grade watercolor and gouache, but that's OK, I'm still practicing. I'm glad I experienced something I've only read about; good paint is really full of pigment with not a lot of binder.

I like making up my own flowers, but what really interests me are faces and figures that tells a story; the reason why I love gesture drawings. I'm hoping I'll move on to those this summer. For now, though, I really get a kick out of making small books: these are my latest watercolor-practice books; I used other sketch pad covers because I wanted to include the word "(S)tudents".

I'm still struggling with layers and when I try to do second and third layers with paint I seem to obliterate previous layers. When I add colors as unintentionally as possible, I pick the least attractive to destroy any kind of harmony, almost as a challenge to myself. Although sometimes I find in them old-fashioned Kimono color combos, even.

I've been enjoying the Art & Artists blog's series on American Folk Art, especially portraits. They're devastatingly folksy/outsider and encouraging for me to give people doodles a go.

This is how I survived the months leading up to and following The Election. I'm trying to wean myself off of news feed. I'm finding the notion of liberal prejudice interesting, as I probably am guilty of it.



By which I mean I am interested in mixed media at the moment and this is what I'm doing.
Doodling: I learned to doodle flowers from Tessa. (I received the first pic she posted, but she gets inundated with requests, she posted her process in detail in a previous post if you are interested.)
I wanted to move on to fish but they weren't as interesting as flowers so they're now the back pond.
As a kid, I was fascinated by illuminated manuscripts, and wondered if I could do something with my flowers. Mine turned out more like... what... names to go on embossed cards??
I also colored in Tessa-drawn flowers with watercolor.
On a whim, I started drawing tiny Christmas stockings decorated with flowers and painting them in.

Image Transfers - acetate. Since I read about image transfers ages ago I've always been interested in incorporating it in mixed media. This technique requires printing on acetate, (e.g. plastic document covers or old OHP films.)  Printing can mean printing a file, or copying on a copy machine or printer, and of course print files/copy options can be manipulated. Moisten paper to print, place acetate on top with image side down, rub while the ink on the acetate is still wet. Very simple yet effective. The hardest parts for me have been moistening the paper evenly, and not moving the acetate while I rub. This produces less-saturated-than-original, pixelated, softer/ghostly image.
Image transfer - acrylic media. There are more Youtube vids on this technique, but I found it excruciatingly tricky. Print/copy image on printer paper; slather 3mm or 1/8" acrylic medium evenly, let dry completely, soak in water and rub the paper gently off the back of the dried medium. With Vincent on the left I followed a composite of these instructions: I threw away four or five others which didn't dry properly, tore, or otherwise behaved badly.

It's hard to brush gooey medium evenly, (it's runnier than icing); despite all the taping, printer paper wrinkles when placed under goody medium and the medium does not sit evenly on wrinkles; vids say to wait a 8-12 hours but my medium could have waited over 48 hours; Tessa suggests applying the medium in multiple stages to let it dry in between; rubbing the paper off is delicate work because the medium tears easily, especially where the medium was thin over the wrinkles. And the film curls while drying. I put weight on both, but Vincent, in particular, curled further after removing the weight before it was completely dry.  The resultant image is not as sharp as the original; I'm not sure if it's meant to be soft-ish or brittle.

This is my compromise; Ben in the left. I printed a file of a quick drawing on a glossy photo paper; applied a thinner layer of medium and let it dry for a day, then soaked it for another day. Photo paper has a protective layer on the print side and back; soaking the second day allowed me to peel off the back layer, and after more soaking, I could rub off some of the paper as in the above method. The front layer (and some paper?) could not be totally removed but the medium+front-layer made the film less delicate and easier to work with. The image is sharp this way.

More practice will make me at least understand the process better, but working with wet PVA might have given me a tingle in my mouth despite good ventilation, so maybe later.
Layers: it's the same as texture-rich weaving; I love layers when others do it well but I often feel I've destroyed harmony when I add layers. To combat this, I've been making layered background. Watercolor and acetate doodle transfer.
Watercolor, acetate doodle transfer, acetate image transfer of a negative of Vincent's self portrait, conté.
Collage using torn, leftover watercolor background paper.
Like weaving, I can try different color combinations including quite a bit of complementary, but I still like analogous the best. Acrylic paint and gloss varnish.

With practice, my basic book binding skills are getting a bit better. Cutting paper straight doesn't happen automatically, but punching holes all the way without the sheets moving around, and sewing without distorting the holes have become easier.

Techniques to investigate/experiment in the future include:

* Simpler, (dare I say, unlayered?) collage composition, and/or in combination with other techniques. Collage has been on the back burner, but I've become more interested in making better-thought-out pieces, and have been looking at Dada/Surrealist although they're not styles I like.

* Printed photo manipulation. I bought Seth Apter's video on the technique and it is as attractive to me as image transfer as it alleviates the need for drawing.

* Monoprints. I made a homemade jelly plate. I now know one big attraction of this technique is the delicious texture of the jelly plate; I want to carry a small piece with me at all times.

* Drawing. I want to draw as lightheartedly as I now doodle. I couldn't even when I was taking drawing lessons but because I like my quick/loose drawings best, they don't have to be good/accurate, but only interesting to me. I joined a FB group by Tina with lovely prompt/tutorial videos; for now I only watch the vids and study others' work.

I wonder where I'll get to next.


One More on Letter Journals

This one is about serial collaboration in absentia, as it were. I worked on Sue Maher's journal in the group working on "Patterns". I was second in line; that is, she made her journal, sent it to me, I worked on it, and it will go to three more collaborators before returning to her to keep. It was supposed to be a test of my control-freakery control. (I scanned rather than photographed images and they look duller than in real life.)
All the paint work was done by Sue. For me, it was hard to see harmony or connection if the two pages were to be treated as one spread. Without any plan, I first made a few rows of different shapes with gold gel pen on the right page, but I liked the red and orange circles too much to reduce their presence/effect I didn't cover the whole page with gold shapes.

Looking at the left, blue/pink-lavender page, again without a strategy for the spread but aiming to harmonize colors, I drew squares in a copper gel pen much like the fifth picture in the previous post. I chose bronze because depending on light/angle the shapes are hard to see, sort of like weft and warp in the same color and size but with different sheen; or they shine. I had in mind a map of an invisible/lost city.

This is what surprised me. After this much detail, I might have been expected to sign and finish the spread, at least the left page, but I didn't because I was immensely eager to see what others would do. Even if someone painted or collaged over so the shapes were obscured, I wanted to see it. Isn't that so strange, me? I hope others aren't annoyed I left it unsigned.
This page worked in the opposite direction. This is the correct orientation and Sue had some paint on the right page, but not on the left, Richard Scarry page. I came up with a plan when I couldn't sleep a few nights ago and thought it was going to be easy I didn't even take a before pic.

I had this drawdown printed, (with colors slightly altered,) for my own journal. The colors matched but I also wanted to use Clare Plug's collage techniques or my version of them: I cut the draft in different-width vertical strips, turned one upside down, and staggered the positions to make it like the original draft but with a little more quirk. I added some brown music strips Sue gave me to pull some of the brown on the Scarry page. I thought I was nearly done and scanned at this stage as reference for developping a draft like this.
I stamped the five days of the week and a round, "hello, weekend" stamp in four different colors pulled from the background, and where the words were hard to read, traced the outline of the letters diligently with different colored pens. This was my plan, but the spread didn't look harmonious. So I drew vertical lines in different width with felt-tips, again picking out the colors from the background. Well!! The lines were too saturated, the color progression too rainbow-y, and because there was no focal point, the result looked like a complicated background! (And you can't see the drawdown!!)

I wanted to draw a shape repeated several times in white, but we have always had problems with white gel pens clogging up, and sure enough, the latest, with almost a full tank, wouldn't work. When in doubt, I turn to collage, so I hunted for something smallish and white.
Alas, I had a focal point, larger than I imagined, but quirky; I think the addition makes the background interesting/complex albeit still too rainbow-y, and the spread a little sparse. And Sue likes butterflies. And the collage looks "mine".  So, worth it.

This is why I find paper work fascinating. I can rework, (fix?) without making a new warp or rethreading; there is much I can add/amend/improve (or ruin) before "wet-finishing", as it were. The way I work is time-consuming, and perhaps I exercise my own but different-from-usual kind of control-freakery. The process/experience teaches me about design, composition, which I know will help when I start the freeform weaving.
And I get enjoyment and friendships out of it.

And I got two different white acrylic pens today. Take that, four wonky white gel pens!!


Letter Journal - Newbie's Thoughts

Over the last two weekends, I spent some time working on the aforementioned Letter Journals, one each weekend. It's that thing where we make small booklets, work on a bit of mixed media, pass it on to another person, and when we get our own back the book will have been worked on by around four people. I wanted to record my thoughts before I forget them.

Material/Media: I'm unfamiliar with too many. In drawing classes, we used mostly dry media: pencils, charcoals, conté, pastel and graphite; occasionally crayons and felt-tip pens; wet media and other techniques like collage and print less often. We also used inexpensive drawing paper, (for me, the larger the better,) and I chose to always use a easel and work standing up.

In these journals, for whatever reason, I tried to use what others appear to be using to achieve the mixed-media-y look. Most of what I own are the cheapest and/or student grade; I live in a small town where that is what is readily available, and it's never hindered my enjoyment. Alternatively I could shop online or in Japan, but even then I tend to buy the cheapest or whatever is on sale, because I don't take my paper play seriously. That's not a bad thing, is it?

I don't have many fancy mixed media "products", but I have enough stuff, and once or twice "products" disappointed big time. (It probably would have been a different story had I gotten better-quality brands.) As I said, I have enough, but what I do have, I need to spend time with, play with, learn characteristics and workable combinations. (I am the weaver who wove nothing but plain weave for seven years. I like learning.)

Because of the postal weight restrictions of many countries, (NZ Post allows 200g for a DL envelope as opposed to some countries' 50!!) we're recommended to use copy/cartridge and other light-weight paper. Papers I chose didn't like water at all and in some cases even iron didn't remedy the warped shapes. I've more light-weight paper to experiment with, like onion-skin typing paper, (remember them? I still have some!) coloring book pages, accounting and music notebooks, thin graph papers, etc., but familiarizing myself with material/media is urgent. I will probably start making my own collage material, too, as I use glossy mags in the main but they really add to the weight. Collage being my go-to technique, this is important.

Drawing: I never learned to paint, except to make backgrounds/washes, so that's a totally different kettle of whales, but I did take drawing lessons for six years and I loved it, so I should be less reluctant to draw. But I am. So I started copying tiny drawings and photographs, but it's not going well and sitting down at the coffee table and drawing in A4 or smaller sketchbooks is a completely different activity to what I did in class. I could get my easel out, I suppose, but I couldn't work on my journal this way, can I?

Layers: This is like texture in weaving: I love it when others do it well but I like to make simpler, "thinner" end-product. With collage postcards, I've become less reluctant to to create layers on paper, but my preference is still less/fewer, and I may be doing too little backgrounds.

Originality: As with my drawing, I want to eventually make my journal contributions look different from other folks', (or that's what I thought about my drawing but it may not be the case,) to claim I'm not a paper/mixed media person but I'm a weaver, (beyond pasting tiny cut-up drafts,) and a bit weird. (Which is one reason I don't want to accumulate "products".) To that end, drawings has got to be at the top of the list; I also want to try stamp-making and small prints; even turn my drawings into stamps and prints.

Collaboration: We are meant to complete a couple of spreads in every journal so nobody else works on them, and create/add to backgrounds on other pages. So far I've not worried about originality on my or anyone else's because I'm too busy "doing", but I worry about layers of backgrounds I see posted in our Facebook group. Some, to me, look much too much from the start, and at least in the thumbnail pictures I see no way of my adding anything further. On the other hand, I wonder if my background contributions will look less-than-half-hearted for their sparsity, although at least three others are going to pile on stuff, so I don't think it's a big problem. Maybe there're folks who love to pile on stuff.

We'll see. Experience will help, but in the end I think what others in a particular swap like/make will tell me what to do. Fingers crossed.

The first theme I signed up for was "patterns". What weaver wouldn't. I made the cover paper with acrylic two years ago post-Seth's workshop. It's actually more saturated and has purples, oranges and quite a few blues you can't see in the scan, and I thought it was regular but not identical, my kind of a pattern.
This is my one satisfying background page. On other pages, I sort of cheated, pasting one or a few big pictures showing patterns. I had printed/cut out some weaving drafts but they never found a place in this journal; perhaps they will on others' on the same theme.
This is my "finished" page, which turned out completely different from how I imagined. For one thing, cheap paint is less intense! I signed it to signal "finished", but I didn't spray the top coat because I want to work some more in the bottom purple part when it comes back. (Not sure if you can see the original painting on the top half of the right page; I used the colors and extrapolated the lines.)
Jade is in Oz and there are a lot of Oz members, and because their postal weight limit is 50g, there are a lot of calls for Australia-only swaps; the group has been going for a while so some are by-invite only. But the group is kind to newbies, to everybody, so no worries. After I sent off my first journal, I was itching to join another, and waited for another International swap with a not-too challenging theme. Not finding any, I went called my own, with a Mail/Post/Letter-theme.

Not thrilling when I don't like the cover, but live and learn. It's a recycled envelope. And though it's a theme/motif I liked since I was little, somehow it wasn't as encouraging as I thought it would be. Maybe I have to many preconceived images.
This is a spread where I used wax and water-soluble crayons. The wash was so pale and crinkly I worked over with more crayons, which made it worse. I thought of gessoing over, or at least sponge-rolling with gouache, but gazing at a totally different example on Facebook, I started making shapes with gel pens. What I really wanted to do was to draw a woman writing and reading letters, and I practiced about eight times each, when it came to drawing on the page, they turned out weird. I'd like to blame the crayon build-up underneath, but that would be untrue. The hands on the cover didn't have crayon underneath. I thought of going over the drawings with a thicker pen, but whenever I try to remedy things I made them worse so I left them. Finished.
The small page is a postcard I "wrote" to Dad; the picture side is blank. The text side is finished.
This is how I feel every time I finish a journal. And just when I gave the envelope to Ben to post, he remembered I had received someone else's! But I think I'd like to work on twill drafts now.

If you are interested in joining the Letter Journal group, contact Jade.

* * * * *

Ben's back at work this week. We only gardened that one afternoon, but he smoked a big piece of pork, and beef (?) sausages one day, chicken drumsticks and salmon another day, and chicken breasts, and pork sausages another day, and we had bread from the best bakery in town, so every single day we had healthy open sandwiches laden with lettuce, tomatoes, gherkins and smoked protein. Which reminds me, we ate the last of the chicken last night so I have to cook dinner tonight.

I finished threading the white warp on Monday just so I don't have to tell mom I hadn't, again, on our weekly Skype.

Dad would have been 89 today. He's gone 3.5 years but I don't miss him any less, so it's a big fat lie it gets easier with time. The good part for me is, it's darn hard to remember his bad bits.


A Week of... Gardening??

On Tuesday, I tidied my stash room a little and evacuated all mixed media stuff from the living room. Because I've been in full work mode, (whatever "full" means when one's been mildly/moderately depressed and is fighting sporadic joint pains,) I had yarns all over the floor I could hardly move. Now, most wooly stuff are back in boxes or downstairs, and mixed media stuff re-sorted with even a wee table surface to see, select and try out ideas. This is not a change in focus, but for right brain massaging. I've been working on a post about my first Letter Journal experience; I hope to finish soon.
On Wednesday I finished the practice needlepoint piece. The one-horizontal-one-vertical in combination with a long-and-skinny made it impossible to shape it in its original rectangle; I don't have a needlepoint frame, so I wonder if this would be a problem with a larger, more or less square piece. Towards the end, (top right,) I had ran out of darker blues, and experimented with jigsaw-puzzle-like shapes, which made the whole thing more interesting. Funny how the top looks a little like the top of the South Island around Nelson; that was completely unintentional. I don't have a concrete plan for the next project yet.

I liked having a needlepoint project; I worked little bits at a time while watching the telly in the evenings. Ditto knitting, spinning, and embroidery; I love the portability and, what's the word, instant accessibility (?). Perhaps if I worked on a small frame loom, it would be the weaving equivalent. More than that, I wished I were less circumspect about drawing.

This afternoon, we went outside for the first time this "gardening" week. We only tidied the pots on the patio, and saw how much work needs doing, (a lot!) but it was one half day more than nothing. And I'm about an hour and a bit away from finishing threading the baby blanket. We have been eating a lot of yummy healthy food this week, though. Ben smoked some chicken and pork and we got delicious loaves from the good bakery, so lots of beautiful open sandwiches. It's definitely getting warmer.



Hello there. Has it been a fortnight already? A week ago, I was going to tell you I can't remember what I'd been doing and had to check my record: "Blah day," "Not good," "BLAH BLAH BLAH DAY." (By the way the first pages of the diary/calendar became unstuck and it did acknowledge van Gogh's "Branch on an Almond Tree in Blossom". When I went to the same shop a week later, there were many more covers but this one appeared sold out.)

But things haven't been so bad; I've only a quarter of the way to thread of the white blanket warp; hay fever hasn't been too bad although I do stay inside, (so, nor garden time,) and it's been raining some days so there are the odd flowers opening. Ben's been sick, and we think it still has something to do with his myriad of dental problems, but he told me on Friday he had taken this week off to "help me with in the garden" so there will be dental appointments. Or so I thought, until we found out the guy's taking another week off. Curse Ben's "extraordinary tolerance for pain"; I swear it's the same problem for which we ran into a dentist office at 8AM (?) in Elgin, Scotland, in 2003, after having had it checked by our then-regular dentist in preparation for the trip.
After a break, I resumed needlepoint; I lost the plot on the oblong/oval shapes and started to run out of the darker blues from the first project, so am mixing the lighter blues from the second. The focus is more on practicing the one-horizontal-two-vertical stitch, which has become slightly easier but I still get confused when bordering a different color and the yarn splits easily. Or should I say, I stick the needle not always besides the previous stitch but nick the sides. I prefer the irregular, less angular shapes.
I've cut life-size cartoon sheets for smaller scarves in preparation for the Searles technique. I'm going to start with super simple lines/shapes in two-faced twill, but I needed to see real size pictures. I also realized I can't do this on my four-shaft which has only six treadles, since four shafts in two faces needs eight, (for options to lift shafts 1, 2, 3, 4, 123, 234, 134, and 124,) so I have to vacate one of my table looms, both of which have "can't be bothered finishing" warps.
Something like these are likely to be my practice designs.

EDIT: Of course, with six treadles I could mix some kind of a twill with plain or basket weave, but in this case I probably would like to pay more attention to colors to make the two areas appear more in contrast to each other.  I'm a little afraid of using plain weave in case the texture/fulling come out unevenly, or selvedges scalloping. An easier solution would be a 3-end twill.


Part 3 of 3 of 2016

It's been at the pace of an old-snail-with-joint-problems but I have some progress. (Rain today; all the pictures posted today have a pink tinge that doesn't exist in real life, but you get the gist.)

I don't have the final drafts for the baby blankets, but I've settled on a simple threading and got to work. There are roughly 12 repeats, (with irregularities at the selvedges,) and the first repeat took 90 minutes, then a half a repeat about half an hour, so I'm hoping the rest will take ten hours or so, or three sittings. It's a lovely yarn with the merino portion that smells like sheep when it rains.

The drafts will be in my usual kind of twills.
I finished the second side of the bag; I think it will be a bag. The white and pale blue stripes in the middle were far too wide and unappealing but the thumbnail of this picture didn't look so bad.
That's the surprise of projects without plans. I find the lines/shapes in the first side more unified and pleasing close up, but this may change from time to time.
This is the first side.
I started a practice piece with leftovers. (I have in mind a larger piece in ivories, camels and taupes; the yarns I picked aren't strictly monochrome as some have hints of yellow, but harmonious overall.) I started out practicing oval/feather/pear shapes in different stitches but it's not working all that well. I've only ever used the one-horizontal-one-vertical stitch, but one-horizontal-two-vertical stitch, (and presumably the two-horizontal-one-vertical,) is thick, soft and lovely; it's easy to split the yarn and stitch through it, however, or to miss spots adjacent to adjacent patches. Mixing the different stitches would give depth, but I'm not sure if I have the patience counting and picking, and I find myself leaning towards one texture/flat outcome and placing interest in the colors and shapes, like my weaving. One option when working on a larger piece is to draw the approximate shapes/plan on a piece of paper and check my progress against it as I work. I love the saturated navy blues and the comparatively monochromatic look of the sample.

I got through the twill and Summer and Winter parts of Searles book immediately, (I'll have to learn the other structures before continuing reading,) and have been dying to experiment. I've had a longish for-samples warp on my 16-shaft Klick for ages so it's a cinch threading, but for now I'm holding off until I finish threading the baby blankets lest I get too absorbed by the experiment. This is going to be so much fun, I tell you.

I weeded and planted some wallflowers; it's a tiny patch and still I did it over two days, (spring wind started blowing on cue on Sept 1,) but I did it nevertheless. I'm not sure if the new medications/supplements are working, if I'm being super lazy, or now it's the hay fever slowing me down, but I haven't been as productive as I like. If this is the new normal, so be it; I'm sick of regretting what I haven't done.

I had a Bowen Technique massage on Wednesday, which I think worked well but I have picked up many bad habits over the years, mostly when I sit, so there'll be a few more appointments forthcoming. I had to write a check for Kathleen, (had to think what to write on which line!) and I was startled it was Aug 31. Where has the year gone?!
On my way home, I bought a 16-month diary for 2017 starting Sept 1 and began writing a few lines of what I did each day. This way I hope to reduce the missing weeks and months in the coming year. The cover looks like van Gogh's "Almond Blossoms" but with glittery bits; there is no mention of it anywhere in the book so I don't know what the deal is, but it cheers me up.

I woke up this morning at 5.30AM panicked I forgot to set the alarm, so I set it and tried to go back to sleep. When the radio came on, it wasn't the regular news program so I was sure I had the wrong station, (which is hard since the radios in our house have been tuned into one station for >21 years,) but it was the usual station, running a weekend program. Frantic, I checked three places on my laptop to discover it was Sunday! Instead of feeling lucky for an "extra" day, I was exhausted and fell asleep. What was that all about??

Today is the last day of temporary Suter; the renovated (??) old Suter opens in a month. I swear I posted a picture of the temporary Suter around Feb 2015, but I can't find it, so here is Ben's on NDP. (It wasn't just the cafe and store, but had exhibition space, to be sure.)


All Kinds of Crazy

We'll have been in this house for 20 years next January, and we're used to seeing roofs and cars covered in yellow pine pollen, but to our recollection this is the first time we saw a cloud-like formation over Rabbit Island, (and it's yellow in real life,) in spite of almost a week of consistent but sometimes tentative rain. I'm glad I got this season's (first?) hayfever meds yesterday.

In fact I came home with more head meds, (I spoke too soon in the last post; I kinda relapsed,) and a selection of probiotic stuff; Dr Karl is exploring the possibility my joint pains, vertigo, fatigue/lethargy and weight gain are related, (unlike my previous who gave me 500 generic paracetamols;) and if this works to plan, it may even ease my allergy. I hate medications, but if they work, (and most of the food to help maintain the, er, "biotics", we eat regularly anyway,) I'll regain my life. He also told me about slow-release steroid shots to take care of the hayfever. I'm such a fan of steroids, not, and he knows, so we delayed deciding, but if this year is going to be particularly bad, I might give it a go and get it over with.
I started the other side of the wee bag, and it's not progressing as spontaneously as I expected; the angle of the diagonals appears not as acute as the first half and I keep folding the piece in half to see if it matters. I bought an extra skein of the darkest blue, but may run out of lightest to proceed in the proportions I imagined I would. Or I could skip it on this side and not worry about it.
Pat came home and I got my Searles book yesterday. (Vendor only shipped within the US.) Although I only started reading, it appears to be just the book I needed right now, and not as difficult to understand as I feared. (It also has a lots of photos illustrating the text.) So far the technique appears almost in between loom-controlled and hand-manipulated, so not as onerous as I assumed.

I haven't started threading Baby Blankets #5 and #6 because I haven't come up with two attractive eight-shaft drafts. Weaving double weave requires my full attention with every pick, so I had started making simpler drafts, but this is not a sticky warp and there is no need to dumb down the interlacement, and I want to surprise myself.

I used to go into town with an ancient normal size backpack instead of a purse, then a small backpack, but lately small textile bags, many of them handmade, have been accompanying me. I am a bag lady; even if I don't use them, I like to imagine/mix/match fabrics/styles. I'm often seen loitering in bag shores and departments in Japanese department stores, not so much the high-end European leather stuff but more unique/handmade-y kind, fabric and leather.

Usually when I weave bag fabric, (or fabric I would like to turn into bags if/when I get around to designing/sewing outside my head,) they are either warp-end swatches or stash reduction projects. But like the baby blankets, there is no need to dumb down the design just because I'm bad at sewing. In fact specially designed-and-woven bag fabric projects might give me more satisfaction, (if not the usual hair-tearing bother,) if I make the weaving more labor-intensive, because I'm that kind of crazy.

I ordered some aforementioned "default" yarns; two kinds, eight colors, to audition Though all are in lovely colors, I chose what work with Mom's and my stash, (grays, dark blues and purples,) and I'm feeling sorry for myself for not being able to explore the 2/30 merino colors/combinations. But now that so much stash yarns are out of the boxes strewn all over the house waiting their turns, I don't have room to line up and study. But I'm enjoying my stash, and they are enjoyable once out of the boxes and I can visit with individual lots or introduce one lot to another.
Though not postcards, Jade invited me to join a Letter Journal group. It's mixed media mayhem in collaboration, as serious or light-heated as I want. I.e. vigorous proactive relaxation of the soul. True to my goal/award-carrot/stick-Lent/Easter predilection, I declared I can't join swaps until I weave two baby blankets, but now I'm revising that to after I've finished sampling the blanket warp. Meanwhile, I've been trying to improve my paper-cutting/slicing and hole-punching-on-the-fold skills in the evenings, neither of which are going great. You might say if I had time to do this, I could have joined already, but I know, it's my mini OCD. (The painted sheets were made two years ago, just so you know I'm not distracted to that extreme.)


Note to Self: Variety of Depression

The gray singles warp is finally off the loom; top three are going to have an old-fashioned feel but soft because of the Possum/Merino/Silk wefts. The undyed merino/mohair warp, for Baby Blankets #5 and #6, have been wound but I haven't been able to make two interesting drafts with family resemblance yet distinct, on the same threading. Soon. These are going to be extra slow to weave not only because of the width, (same as the gray,) but also the 28/2 wefts, nearly half the size of what I wanted.
I started a whim-y needlepoint project with three blues, the palest having a hint of yellow, plus ecru. If I were making a warp, I might have mixed yellows, a pale orange, grays, or even a lavender, or all these, to make it more 'interesting" but this thing is just for me and I wanted as close to monochromatic as poss. The problem is, I started from the top, then decided to fold it in half and make a small bag, and I wanted a lot of dark blue at the bottom. I should have made the two blues under the white thicker, so there's been some reediting/removing, standing back, staring and pacing. That's the unrushed luxury of not-planned projects.

* * * * *

This last m-t-m depression was indeed mild but in a strange turn getting back to normal was harder. Maybe I wasn't as desperate enough; I was unsure for the last while whether I was still sick or lazy. Once out of the tunnel, though, life looks so clear and there is that grip on my own life I hadn't felt for months.

Last Sunday Ben helped me in the garden for a couple of hours, which got me back on track; though I'm way behind schedule, (when am I ever not?) and though hay fever started at 9.50 this morning, let's say the place is looking tidier today than it did a week ago and more plants got out of pots and into the ground.

For my own record, here's how this last version was different from all previous:

* Usually I have such hard time falling and staying asleep, but this time this was not a problem. Overall I got plenty of uninterrupted sleep at night, but often I could not stay awake during the day and had long naps as well.

* My appetite was as erratic as any other time. Some days I only had one meal, or just fruits, but I still gained weight, and haven't lost it.

* Indecision was just as bad as in the past, but I didn't worry about postponing as I knew it was a matter of time before I could make decisions.

* I never did the South Pacific Greeting this time, raising both eyebrows simultaneously and opening my eyes; usually this is the tell-tale sign to myself. I was no more bothered by bright lights than usual, but loud voices/noises were still painful.

* I've picked up many ways to distract myself since 2003, they delayed my picking up the latest episode, but I'd like to think it's also how I kept it mild.

* Because it happened at the same time as my hip problems, (it started with a cold/hips/m-t-m!!) I build in a simple exercise routine into my day. Though it wasn't followed every day, getting to move was not a problem, (unusual,) but after I finished, some days I stayed motionless in one posture for long periods, (normal when depressed, impossible when not.) Since I've gotten better, I often forget about exercises and get on with "the day".

* I could do two or three things most days, rather an none or one; most days I cleaned the kitchen/cooked dinner, read and wove. Laundry has never been a problem, nor ironing in recent years; the house at time got messy but on better days I managed tidying/vacuuming. So no new corner niche stacked with things "I'll take care of when I can think better."

* On days I couldn't weave, I could think of future projects and make plans. This surprised me. I would have loved to have made warps as I find this most invigorating, but since there are so many made already, I made only three.

* I could read. Not in depth, but I could concentrate long enough to read a few articles or long books in short spurts. And I comprehended/retained as much information as I normally do. (Which isn't much but I'd need some kind of a brain transplant to solve that one.)

* Because I've made my life so much smaller to concentrate on weaving, I didn't have to cancel/avoid to many people/social gatherings. For me, this is a good thing, trust me. Although there are a few people I should get in touch with pronto. I'm learning more about introverts, and a few years ago I would never have considered myself one, but I have some insight into where my anxieties come from.

* Long periods of (mild) anxiety can lead to depression. It was especially true in '03, '09 and this year; I don't known how to avoid them, as they are usually extrinsic, (this year, so many changes in the neighborhood since Nov/Dec, and serial breaking down of things in our house, and Ben's continued dental issues,) but there must be a fancy-named therapy that could help. (A few years ago when I did an online NZ self-help thing, the one JK fronts, I was recommended to look into something besides CBT but I can't remember what it was. Must ring them again.)

* * * * *

So here we are. My life is back to being quite cushy; the most dire problem this Sunday is appears to be no TV coverage of Brazil v Germany, (only the goal kicks, blah,) and the marathon, the one thing I look forward to four years. I hope your life is as lighthearted.


Weaverly Perspective

I forgot I drafted this two weeks ago. I need one more sitting to finish this warp.

* * * * *
It looked simple enough on the screen.
I started weaving the last piece of the would-have-been baby blanket warp. The weft is skinnier than the same yarn in different colors, I noticed it while winding the pirns, but that should have only flattened the pattern. When I started weaving, I couldn't see the patter, not even when I got off the bench and looked from different angles and under different lights.

When I finally could, the leafy shapes looked blockier, more square. And I saw a military (??) cemetery with identical markers for miles over rolling hills, the kind we see on films and TV with cannons and flags. Strange. If it had more colors, I might have seen rows of English beach sheds (??).

Both the single wool and possum/merino/silk will full, so I'm looking forward to wet-finishing this and two previous pieces, pale green and green and red. But these sure take a long time to weave. I think part of it is because I'm tiring of twill; I will never NOT weave these, I like them in general, the next blanket will be twill, but I think I need to get excited about getting to know another weave structure.

* * * * *

I've been thinking more about stitched double weave, not studying but exploring the kind of look I want to weave. Stitched double weave, as far as I can tell, are woven for two reasons: for design, mainly to introduce new colors; or structural, to either hold two layers together, or to envelop stuffing between layers. Or both. I was initially thinking of the design/color aspect, but that can be done in other ways, e.g. supplementary warp, careful (beyond my skill) dyeing, etc, as well. Which makes the experimentation less urgent. Except a two-layer scarf/shawl would be warmer than a single. I'm not stopping the research, but am looking for some kind of a goal/purpose/reason.

* * * * *

As regards the pick-up technique/book mentioned in the previous post, I have an idea I can't stop thinking about, but I don't know how practicable it is. I get the book in a week or two when Pat returns from the US, but I don't know if the idea is even pertinent to what the book covers. I'm plotting to weave a set of large-ish cloth/pictures with a theme.

The problem is, I think of weaving in terms of cloth, i.e. regular repetition of motifs making up a long rectangle. Making something with visual oomph, though, requires thinking not of columns and rows of cutesy motifs but the cloth/picture as a whole. For now I'm not planning on embellishing, especially of attaching/leaving hangy, sticky-outy bits, but making a picture inside or on top of a cloth/structure. The problem is, whatever I try to visualize, a starting point or something nearer an end product, all I see are flat cloth with perhaps a bit erratic color changes, and not too different from the usual.

This is going to take time.

* * * * *

Did you see Kaz's new toys? At first I thought, oh, yeah, the freestyle Saori thing, i.e. not for me. Then I wondered if the flexible reed would help bring a new kind of aesthetic to my cloth/pictures with a theme. Well, not just yet; the reeds are expensive, and I haven't done enough thinking. Heck, I haven't even started.


Weaverly Stuff

I forgot to tell you Mom's good news: Mom's second weaving teacher Mrs T so enjoyed Mom's exhibition she came out of a decade of retirement and resumed lessons in May. Or June. Or April? On odd week Wednesdays Mom teaches at home, and on even week Wednesdays she gets advice on her own projects from Mrs T. Mom's enthusiastic as ever, bursting with ideas. What's better, from the old house to Mrs T's house took nearly two hours on two train lines; now it's three or four stations on one.

I was bi+ching and moaning to Dianne about how hard it's getting to buy good NZ merino at an affordable price. That's all I got on the subject; it's hard, and we've no solutions as yet.

I'd been in consultation with a client about a toddler blanket for eight months because I couldn't find good pale/mid grays around 16/2. I can find plenty of charcoals, but we wanted a mid- and pale grays, or light gray with undyed/white. I dug into my stash, where there were a few good grays but not enough of any for a blanket. Although Japan does a variety of inviting grays, they were out of our budget. I checked NZ sources but found nothing I liked except one I used to use, now twice the price.

So we talked some more and decided to look into finer yarns, (i.e. thinner/less cushy than the others blankets; it's the same grandma and this is toddler blanket #5!) and/or mixed with other fibers, but not mohair, and not textured yarns. I made a merino/mohair warp, (shhhhh, don't tell her yet; I know this particular yarn works like shiny merino that doesn't full as much,) intending to use charcoal Possum/Merino/Silk in the weft.
I checked around one last time, widening, (or thinning,) the scope of my search and found a perfect mill-end (?) pale-to-mid gray marled 28/2 merino of the softest kind. I must now elongate the design as the skinny weft flattens the motif, but this is going to be a lovely piece very much to my taste, and I believe to hers. (The undyed is whiter in real life.)
I also made a two-taupe New Zealand Crossbred warp as an alternative, unsure if I had enough for a blanket. This yarn is coarse unless woven with very cushion-y weft, and would have worked well with the charcoal P/M/S. Turned out I didn't have enough, but I remembered every time I weave double-width, (i.e. her blankets,) I want to try two layers with stitching, so I'm making a slate-and-black warp of the same yarn to play with stitching. Although... Who knows when I'll get my head around two-layers-with-stitching drafting. (The picture is straight, but the warping board leans on the wall.)

While gazing at stitching drafts way after Insomnia O'clock, I found an article on cutting (?) eyelashes on combination single/double-layered cloth. (Schlein, Alice, "Raising Eyelashes", The Best of Weaver's: The Magic of Double Weave, Interweave, pp.95-97.) You know I'm no good with words explaining weaving, but it appears once the cloth is woven we cut the double-layered part to create eyelashes. The example had diamond shapes surrounded by continuous bands of eyelashes. I would have thought cutting around the diamonds would have given us a bunch of little diamonds with frayed edges, but no, magically the cloth remains in tact. Well, blow me away!

Don't ask me why but while flummoxed by the eyelashes, I wondered what shadow weave in complementary colors would be like, with one yarn being much thinner than the other like a real shadow. This one is easy, but I have almost 30 ready-made warps now so I'll wait a wee bit before I whip up a few of these.

I was intrigued by a picture of the piece on the cover of Nov/Dec 2015 Handwoven I saw on Facebook, so I promptly bought a digital issue. It's a plain-weave-based pickup using a variegated weft, and the author mentioned Technique of Freeform Design by Nancy M. Searles, a book I'd never heard of. So I Googled, and what do I find but Kaz writing it about it two years ago. She thought I'd enjoy the book so I bought it and now am waiting. It's been a while since I bought weaving mags/books so this is exciting.

This all happened not in since I last posted by slowly over the winter. I'm enjoying the current inability to focus but not feeling guilty jumping from one idea to another and not worrying about discarding. It's been over a month since I got on meds and that's definitely working this last week, so every morning I've faced the conundrum of giving up my sloth life and generating output. Reading all morning in front of the fire has been hard to give up, especially on cold or rainy mornings. I've been reading.
Albeit slowly, stash-busting is happening. Although sometimes it's a bit forced, my cone tower is growing taller.
And because this post has been devoid of colors, here's my wee beetroot forest in the kitchen. It's about the only "gardening" I've done in, oh, six or so weeks but the colors are so cheerful.

Happy slow days.


Even Boldrick Had a Plan

It's been a... tedious winter; I think that's the adjective that fits best. Gardening helps depression but tires me out and aggravates joint pains; many days I can't concentrate or settle down, but some days mindless menial jobs are OK. I've been living by ear, as it were, but it's been a mild one this time around so I'm not that despondent.

I haven't gardened for four or five weeks. (I stopped initially because we had ten days of much-awaited serious rain within any 24-hour period, after which I noticed my hips didn't hurt!) I've woven a little. Watched a lot of docos online. And I read a lot of short stuff on so many subjects. Today's title was a comment on Facebook on a Brexit articles. :-D

The gray warp was meant to be a double-width baby blanket, but at 18EPI per layer, the singles were too sticky. Being already 71cm wide on the loom, (slightly too wide to weave comfortably/confidently,) I couldn't resley, so I gingerly wove the top layer, cut it off, and wound back the bottom layer, to get wide-ish ordinary pieces. It's still slow, sticking weaving, but I can't believe I used to weave 74-76cm wide as a default.
Olive green possum/merino/silk weft. It's a dark, overcast day today but under halogen lights the colors look pretty accurate on my screen. Off the loom but not washed.
Coarser gray variegated wool in the weft, this is a warp-end fabric, possibly for yet another bag. But sampling shows it's soft enough for either the front or back bodice of a rugged vest. Off the loom but not washed.
A Christmassy piece currently on the loom. Donno why this particular one is so slow going.

The bigger problem has been sourcing good light-to-mid-gray wool at a reasonable price. And I don't skimp on quality so I'm not looking for cheap stuff, but some of the prices are now well out of my reach.  I've looked in New Zealand and Japan, but they were too fine/ridiculously expensive/charcoal not light-mid/old-fashioned coarse. In fact I've started dreading sourcing good affordable wool of any kind some time ago, even in small amounts to help stash reduction. I need to research again, preferably NZ wool, but lucky I've got so much stash, eh.

It dawned on me very recently that one reason I don't feel excited about my weaving could be twill: because unless I set out to use another structure, I default to straight-forward twill. This is so automatic the connection didn't even occur to me until I was blessed with the kind of empty-headed-ness that comes with depression. So I've been auditioning other structures, picking up books, gazing at pictures and drafts, and putting them down. That I can't concentrate and read anything in depth in this case doesn't bother me at this stage. I tend to live with weave structures for a while so I can take time cultivating a good relationship. Although for me, for the purposes of the sort of things I make, it is hard to beat twill. I think.

No structure stands out for now, for 16 shafts in particular, but I was fascinated to see many variations of four-shaft drafts using tie-up of 1-3. 2-4, 1-2 and 3-4. I hope I can find them again.