Monday, April 30, 2018

Unreal Knitting / Culling

I'm not a real knitter and sometimes folks misunderstand this to be false humility, but let me explain. I know there is the kind of knitting many folks do, that Mom did voraciously all my childhood, and then there's my kind of knitting; I don't think in terms of shapes or finished product, a usable garment, but as a  square/rectangular/tubular canvas on which to play with shapes and 3D-ness within the viewfinder. Colors so far have been are accidental.

Knitting can start the moment I decide to start, and I have only two sets of needles so I make the yarns fit the needles. I only play with cables. Everything is so simple and it's instant gratification compared to weaving. Except when I get the crazy idea I want to make something. I managed 60cm of Ben's scarf after a week/10 days. The last couple of days I started making mistakes and have been spending a lot of time remedying.

I culled yarns Friday. It helps to have a criteria, so though with great regret, I donated big cones of puffy, slubby wool, one in all kinds of gray, and another in terribly beautiful late-autumnal colors. Both sat on my "display" shelf from time to time because they were excruciatingly beautiful, and sampled a few times, but were much too coarse after wet-finishing. I was more successful with culling silks, cottons and unknowns, with some exceptions: I saved some plant-dyed fat single silks because I've never woven with then, the colors are lovely spring meadow colors in harmony, (although a couple have started fading,) and I'd like to try them in tapestries or bag material in tapestry-like style. I also saved rug warp cottons. I saved two huge cones of synthetic chenille because of the fabulous mid/dark purple; I might knit with it. Wool is harder to cull as what's left are lovely and there's always that chance of magical transformation after washing. I saved massive amounts of Mom's hand-dyed handspuns, all in old NZ wool, possibly from two or three different breeds, (though it could be that some colors feel coarser?) in fabulous array of blues, some peach/oranges, and some undyed, all meant to look lovely together. They are not merino, quite coarse, so I might make picnic blankets, for example. (We still use wool picnic blankets here.) And it's the last big lot of Mom's hand-dyed handspuns, so of course I'll give it a go before parting with them.

We took them to the Hospice shop on Saturday. I was slightly embarrassed about the amount; the duty staff was terribly appreciative at first, but slightly mortified when I told here there may be more. I probably gave three large rubbish bags full? It made a noticeable dent at home, but still only a dent.

The books, though, around which I've been piling up ever higher and gingerly walking around so as not to topple them, worry me. The Fear of Missing Out is greater - I want to read them all and then reread them. That's going to be a whole other post.
It's taken me so long to weave the second and third pieces on the current cashmere warp I can't remember what they look like, except the second was utterly random, third had a bit of color scheme. I simplified the visual on the fourth: two colors and changing the direction of the twill a lot less often. It's true, simple can pack a punch; I can concentrate on the lines better. I love the last bit of curve I managed to make, and in the future I might actually make a template of pleasing lines.

Or not. Who am I kidding. Right?

Friday, April 27, 2018

Composed/Composition

I'd be a troll in Discworld because I function decidedly better in cooler weather; I can think better and do stuff. It's a bit sad if a productive day is a cause to celebrate, but heck, it's better than so many things.

I even have a different pattern of insomnia now; I wake up a couple of times a night, but after a short while of reading or even screening, I fall back asleep. I'm reading more printed books, and can manage some winter evening projects, like knitting or needlepoint.

One major reason for my mood upbeating, (didn't want to say "upbeat mood", which limits the upbeatness to here and now?) is because Ben's return to garden work. We used to work outside together. Then he didn't. Then I started on my own, only in the cool seasons. Then I didn't. But it is so much faster, Ben can tackle bigger/heavier/deeper things, and we discuss the garden beyond him speaking theoretically and my disagreeing from experience or due to practicality. And if a cute, mideum-sized skip is all it takes, I'm happy to invest in hiring it  several times a year; it's equivalent to my selling one large piece!

In fact, all the work we put in over Easter lifted the myriad of diabetes/depression-related clouds we've had since our first encounter, which started on Feb 5 but now I can't remember if it was in '02 or '03. I feel I have some control over portions of our lives. Good, eh.
Re. composition, for the next gray project on the big loom, in a tied weave with which I'd like to familiarize myself, I'm thinking of the vertical version, only because the first idea inspired by Stella's cuffs was horizontal. Truth to tell, I think I've seen both versions online, the vertical looks fresh and new to me. Vertical may cause havoc with tension/shrinkage due to warp ends on one side of  getting more workout than the other. Humm. Silver, white or mid-gray of various fibers in the weft; not a wide piece.
One night while crocheting a boring but useful piece, now done, I got the idea of a narrow knit scarf with one big cable going up the middle, rather than two skinny one climbing up symmetrically, which is how I tend to think of cable knits. And after four or five false starts...
I'm using four strands of two colors/two styles of my weaving cashmere. It's going to be a nice wee scarf, so light and soft, probably warmer than woven because of all the air pockets.

Sorry for the almost-rainy-day pics; now that I've typed the text, the sun's been out and gone again.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Selfish

After the last post on Sunday I didn't go outside but washed two fringed pieces, two warp-end fabric pieces, and vinegar-bathed three pieces, which, well, resulted in my now-usual "woe, the technique" cry.
The brown piece with my handspun single was always going to be experimental, but after wet-finishing I remembered it was one of my earlier spinning experiments and the size of the yarn, random. Horizontal stripes, parts that feel stringy, etc. Charity shop donation?

The big disappointment was the very long cashmere-warp/possum/merino/silk-weft red piece; I didn't see a treadling mistake until I was pressing after wet-finishing. Other disappointments came from past pieces and fabrics not being as "square" as I had thought/hoped. Some weren't as bad as I thought. As I wove further on the third clasped weft piece, and fringed two last pieces currently off the loom, I couldn't shake the foreboding that these will turn out icky, or wacky.

So that was the bad part.

Ben and I haven't stopped thinking and talking about the tapestry loom. And be it the upstairs stash room or the basement, I need further de-stashing, de-booking, de-junking to make room for it. Which might take all winter, if I can manage it in that time. Which wasn't a problem with Glenys.

The task feels overwhelming. The last time I did the whole room was probably 2009, even though I've clean incrementally periodically, but never as thoroughly as I used to, or wished. Will I have the stamina to do a good job? Will I make enough room for the monster tapestry loom?

On Monday, I was looking at stash room's ceiling height, when I saw the very vine NZ merinos I've collected on my top shelf; those yarns, ideas, projects have been put on so far back the back burner while I worked through the stash they almost felt like a previous-me's thoughts. It was like running into an old friend after a terribly long absence. But those are the projects I want to be weaving.

I did not realize how much burden my mother's stash have been. Sure, I made a healthy one myself, but they are, in varying degrees, to my taste, whereas Mom's are mind-boggling mixture of fibers, sizes, styles, and more greens than both of us will ever weave in our lifetimes. Remember, she's the one who had the roof of the old house raised for excess yarnage. There was so bloody much.

I don't blame her for my having rescued them. Not entirely. They are good quality yarns, all natural fiber. Her hand-dyed hand-spuns are old wool with scales and she is/was a pretty good spinner. And then the silk; the variety of silks you can still get in Japan, (albeit most are produced in China,) is nothing like here. And mementos from her travels add flavor.

It wasn't as if I rescued indiscriminately; only old wool, silks, anything cashmere, and good colors. Mom's also given loads to a weaver who teachers weaving to those with learning disabilities; I've given plenty to our local charity shops, plural. I took these on as challenges to stretch my weaving imagination these last years, and have used a bit, to different degrees of satisfaction and sell-ability. But there is so bloody much.

I'm 60 now, (and if you think I talk about age a lot, there are ages significant in Japan, 20, 77, 88, 99, and 60 - or strictly speaking January 1 60 years after one is born - is one of them;) I'm slowing down, every projects requires more time and energy, and if I concentrating on stash-busting, I will never get around to making the fabulous/heavenly/exquisite pieces I'm meant to weave.

Realizing my privileged burden was really big. Turns out a big chunk of Dad's investment into Mom's weaving, that portion she didn't use up, was turning into not an inheritance but a kind of debt for me. I've felt re-energized about weaving ever since. I put a sheet over the "Syrie" warp, the mill, the reed and all, and chose a gray merino warp to practice a tie weave inspired by Stella's cuffs. These will be mostly white or undyed wefts on a gentlest, softest gray merino.

I'm going to be (even more?) self-centered, and will adopt a new criteria for yarn culling: will this contribute to my making a piece I'll be glad to put my label on? The practical culling will probably be done in a few steps, as I've seen potential in all the yarns I've kept and good yarns are hard to let go. I'm especially a sucker for nice colors. And then there is the Fear of Missing Out; I might be giving away an opportunity for a great discovery, a new favorite.

But the time to play around and experiment is over, at least for now, and I'd like to concentrate and perfect (yikes!) what I set out to do when I decided I like to weave. Ditto with books of all genre, art supplies, fabric and sewing stuff. Collage material was culled big time Monday although I might get rid of everything altogether, because they are easy to replace. Yarn/color samples I  culled yesterday; I'm not even sure if some of the companies still exists but even the pretty or sentimental samples are gone. And there's something special in bringing in this kind of newness by choice in life at an older age.
Books are going to be the hardest. I have so many and what I kept are so interesting. These were what was under our bed a few months ago; I catalogued all the van Gogh books so I don't double up, but found far more, and new respectable piles emerged. And we have no space in any of the bookshelves in three rooms. Saving boxes made things worse, but I won't know whether to sort yarns in many smaller boxes or fewer large ones. I want to clean my closet, too. And put all the seeds and propagated pants into the ground or give them away. (I'm trying not to put the garden on the back burner again.)

It would be great if 2018 turns into a year of culling/shedding/unloading.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Checking In

If I don't post somewhat regularly, my posts can get somewhat long, :-D, so let me sum up what I've done since the last post.

I haven't woven, but I've mended four pieces and two warp-end fabric; fringed two pieces, the second red piece, and the brown/white piece; which leaves the two pieces from the merino/mohair warp to fringe. Then a bunch of washing, and loving vinegar rinse for pieces I withdrew from The Suter; then an online "Send Meg to Japan for Mama's 88th Birthday" sale. :-D I've checked all the pieces, started entering status on a checklist, and thought whether to change the way I organize the information for the sale. It'll probably be similar to the past sales because after testing out different styles, it settled on the style I felt comfortable. Albeit a unexciting! :-<

Esther graciously adopted some of my warp-end fabric; I've also asked Stella if I could show her some. They both sew. In fact, damn these Kiwi women, most know how to sew well, they preserve/jam fruits and veg deliciously as a normal seasonal thing, and bake without shortcuts. Esther gave me feijoa chutney, feijoa paste and feijoa upside-down cake, the last of which I devoured like an animal in front of her, (ahhh, refined flour!) and mixed her chutney with my chilli sauce to marinade chicken for dinner. These are women much younger than me; somehow I can forgive older women being fabulous domestic goddesses, but these young'uns! Not mention men who embroider or knit beautifully; we bossily asked one to knit Ben a stylish new sweater. Pictures to come.
Besides jewelry, books, sewing and everything else, Stella is known for her fabulous vintage garments, but this was a stunner; not only the beading on the front bodice and sleeves "rise up", but even the stitching to hold them was part of the decoration, on the inside of the sleeves. (Oh, to be a maker of this caliber! And no wonder Stella has to handwash most of her clothes.) 
Pat and I went to see the aforementioned tapestry loom at Glenys's, and, whoa, I feel as though we went to view a VW Beetle and was shown a Jag. Or a Jeep. It's an impressive Australia machine, huge, heavy, flexible, (Glenys thinks I could easily make it four shafts, at least with harnesses if not the treadles,) and it comes with a built in warping board at the back. I was reminded of my childhood upright piano. 190cm high, 160cm wide, 100cm deep plus me, a bench or chair, and some gap.
At first Pat and I, without consulting, thought it was ridiculous to think I could have it anywhere in my house without major reorganization not just of weaving spaces, but it is a magnificent loom I started wondering what else I could weave,  and also about when I'm even older and can't handle weaving on the four shaft, standing and bending over. I need to cool down and also look at my spaces particularly the basement where the ceiling is slightly higher.

Pat and I also discussed alternative ways of making clasped weft cashmere pieces; tables looms, which I already have, was the first solution except I can see so little of the progression of the designs; I also proposed constructing a simple frame loom, about which Pat was adamant I'd be thoroughly frustrated all too quickly.

Maria has been selling linen clothing at the Saturday market. I was too late yesterday to see her wares, but I found her position and the one piece I saw was fabulous; I don't think I've known such thick but soft linen in my life; in fact my experience of linen has only been with a stiffish summer fabric that no matter how much I moisten, creases before I finish pressing. I never understood why Ben loves them so much.

Maria's garments, on the other hand, were thick with a luxurious soft feel, won't need fussy pressing, are not just for summer. And Maria researches every so carefully I not only trust her, but if I have questions, she can tell me things about her products I didn't ' know I didn't  know. Like these Lithuanian linen fabric is prewashed with enzymes to bring out the softness. Don't be surprised to see me in a loose-fitting dress. Even the sandbags that hold down her tent down in the wind were beautifully made gray bags. I will photograph all when I get there early enough, hopefully next Saturday.

Last week was really a week of friends; I ran into Gavin and Jenny, also. Gavin is not making jewelry any more, and Jenny started easing up on her volunteer work. I do love them both; they are such lovely people; it was lovely to see them.

Today I have to get outside to do a little garden work to stop soil sliding down the slope where I already put in hellebores, knowing I was working backwards. But what's new. And then either some washing or more fringing.

I got seriously tipsy on virgin margaritas at lunch yesterday. That's what 60 looks like.

This was a good week.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Still Here, Still the Same

It seems a lot, and not much, happened in the 24 days since I last posted. Let's see how much I can remember.

"Syrie"
I had much doubts about the merits of "Syrie" but somehow I managed to keep an eye on the calendar so I started concentrating on the practicalities, which to me meant working backwards. Gotta love the Mitsuhashi pragmatism.

First I made the warp. Because I am so bad at predicting how far a ball/cone goes, I wound one color until I ran out, then counted the number of "ends", wrote it down, and moved on to the next combination. "Combination", because one "end" usually consisted of thicker cotton or shiny silk plus my standard 20/2 cotton merc. And if they are tiny, I'm not going to worry about knots. I designed the colors so I could put them in order from one end of the raddle to the other. Around this time I settled on roughly 24 inches in the reed; the wider the better for the look of the work, the narrower the better for weaving, so a compromise.

Then I started to worry I didn't have enough yarns for the warp, (I didn't) and dug further into silk and non-default-cotton boxes, which skewed the initial color distribution. I could rework the colors in the reed; a no brainer in my head, (but no in my hands.) I also decided on twill, (familiarity!) and 20EPI would result in a slightly stiffer than my usual cloth, and acceptable for the purpose. (The last one was more hoping than knowing.) Making the warp took four days, each day working between, oh, two and four hours.

Then I sleyed as I combined the colors, knowing pulling the 21 meters on the warping mill though the reed to the back beam is going to be the toughest job in this project. Already different yarns were hugging each other, twisting, or going way astray. Also, I started diluting the original idea, as in submitting maybe one rectangle much like a pillar, but in red. It took me three days to sley.

As the deadline approached, I pondered dilution vs postponement. This was a hard one as, at least in the old days, I managed to always make the deadline, delivering products as promised, undiluted. And I have to say, they all turned up OK to the best of my ability. But this idea, "Syrie", has lived inside my head for so many years, I didn't want to dilute it. (I also contemplated submitting one rectangle to RAW and then complete the initial project and submitting that to another exhibition.) Submission due came and early in the morning I emailed Lloyd to say I wasn't putting this project in this RAW, to which he replied, maybe next RAW. (And I change the tag to "Not RAW/Syrie/the leek". =>)

Since then I've been carrying around the best books on tied weaves from living room to bedroom to basement and back up again without studying them. I don't want to rush this, I want to savor the making like I did "Pillars". But this is the next to go on the big loom.

Stuff - (edit) In this long post, this is the least consequential part.
Since then I've been tying up loose ends, so to speak. I've culled collage material; evacuated all art supplies but what I need for the daily abstracts from the living room, then reorganized art supplies, (I still have lots, but I've also used up lots.) I finally finished touching up my Santas and all that's left is the clear coat spray.
And while I had the paint out, I painted some cones green, another Christmasy idea I've had for ages.
One particularly ambitious day, I mended/patched six pairs of pants, including four pairs of our gardening pants, after having put in 20-person-hours between the two of us over Easter. (Ben's outside again just now.) My sewing machine is so unpredictable and it did this instead of triple zigzag and I wished I knew how that happened; it looks a little twilly, a little like Christmas trees.
Winter arrived rather suddenly on Tuesday and it was a good thing I booked to have my chimney cleaned on Wednesday. I washed the tiles all around the wood burner but the young chap left soot and ash, didn't clean the glass and didn't vacuum. I used to have it done in spring/summer, but once a neighbor told another neighbor he saw fire from my chimney, so I've been delaying calling until end of summer, which usually gives me two months waiting. But they do a much through job early on I'll resume booking early summer.

I made a mess making the chain out of Esther's warp, so I put it back on the warping board to even out the pulled bits.

That's all I can remember but I've been ironing a lot of Ben's shirts considering: he had three days off the week before Easter, replacing the dashboard of the candy car himself, and we spent the Easter holiday, (and he gets Tuesday off, something to do with NZ educational institutions,) either in PJs or gardening clothes. And already I have several in the ironing basket.

Cleaning out our closets and sorting/stashing my books are on my list. I almost started on my books last week, but I think I have weaving on my mind for next week. Though at the pace of a blind snail in the middle of the dark and stormy night, (remember I was going to bust my and mom's stash before 60?) I have been reducing my yarn and art supplies and there have been reorganization, being combined into a large box or split into smaller boxes, but that work and retrieval has been almost impossible with books that spilled out of bookshelves. Again. Not to mention there are few under the bed. Again. There is going to be a wine and book party here this winter.

The Suter
Yesterday was the last of the ten sessions of art class. The last two were spent trying to replicate, (and I mean copy, recreate,) an uninteresting-to-me landscape painting in acrylics. I felt physically sick and almost walked out several times each session. For yesterday I even prepared a van Gogh self-portrait, (with the ear bandage,) to work on but Mark put so much emphasis on replicating the colors I felt physically uncomfortable.

Still, I learned some stuff; it's one thing to be told with acrylics you start with the dark colors first and pile on lighter colors; completely another to try it; the old masters had superb dexterity to create precise paintings with tiny brushes; I tend to pile on acrylics thick, and Mark showed me how to blend with a dry brush.

Still, 90 minutes feels rushed, especially considering my transportation difficulties, making it either an all-day-in-town day or I have to take the bus home, which isn't a big deal but I'm lazy I'm making it so. I feel ambivalent about the course's match with me, though I'll miss nice women there I've come to know a tiny bit. And Mark is a New Zealand-nice chap. (You heard it here first; I coined it, like Minnesota-nice, but blokier,) but he loves New Zealand landscape paintings, really not my cup of milky Earl Gray. I'm not going back to at least the next session.
I took a shot of the Suter Shop's "textile" shelf two (?) weeks ago. The right half plus some used to be filled with textiles. I'm not sure if this is the change in their priorities I've been "seeing" or if other textile artists are withdrawing. They had four of my pieces on display, which shocked me because it couldn't be that they sold the rest, could it. But they had; they sold three in March, and I withdrew one, but I didn't know this until I got the paperwork later.

I had asked to withdraw everything anyway, however, because going to class every week and walking past the shelf, I was getting so tired of looking at the same old same old every Friday. In the end I left behind one small cashmere basket weave piece and brought home the rest.

I asked Ben what he thought about my volatile feelings about the Suter Shop, and he had a great idea: put in-your-face, art-gallery-ish stuff only at the Suter, and put "normal" "garment" pieces elsewhere or online. This made so much sense; it suits the venue these are things we look for in gallery shops; and it suits to differentiate my stuff there vs elsewhere. So I'm going to work really hard to make more of the clasped weft pieces in saturated colors.

I did one day, and managed 28cm. The thing is, I weave standing up on the four-shaft, (the breast beam is too high and I have to press extra hard on the treadles to lift the shafts while seated,) so I have to bend down and find the sweet spot on my glasses to clasp wefts. It's hard on the back and I manage 40cm only on a super good day. Yet I don't plan to charge that much more, if any, than other cashmeres of similar sizes, for now.

Because Ailsa the shop manager doesn't work on Fridays, Glenys, another long-time friendly person, (which in my mind, rightly or wrongly, makes her textile-friendly,) took care of the withdrawal. And by the way, she asked, did I know anyone who would be interested in a tapestry loom?

Tick.

Opportunely I was scheduled to have lunch with Pat so I asked her what to look for in using a tapestry loom to weave cashmere scarves. Besides the fact it's two shafts , i.e. all plain weave, we couldn't find too many minuses.

Tick.

And virtually no loom waste. At the very least I'll have to have a look, won't I?
Ben got himself a big zoom lens for his birthday. He took this while I was finishing the black merino/mohair warp, standing a meter or two away; it's so clear and shows everything, I was honestly surprised.

On the morning of my birthday, Ali emailed me saying I'll still be the same. I was. I am. This is still me.