Needlepoint II

March 4. Although I plan to proceed as randomly as last year, I have a couple of guidelines which I can't articulate until I work a little more.
March 5. Basic units this time are larger than in last year's sample. Not sure if I like it, or if this will continue. The top middle pale square isn't showing up. :-D
March 6. Now there are two pale squares you can't see until I work around them. I'm wondering if I will like this project with far more yellows, compared to the first project in which I used more ivories, taupes, and such.
March 7. Now you can see some of the pale bits.
March 8 & 10.
March 11. I don't turn this to look from all directions as much as I did last year's, which creates a top vs bottom kind of thinking in my head. Lots of fine bits at the top, less fine, "color plane" bits towards the bottom. Not good, but can remedy at this point. I reference the first project a lot and love the limp old-fabric feel of it. And now I've got all ten yellows in.
March 12 & 13. I noticed lately I am putting together yarns close in value, which doesn't bring out the best of the interesting shapes I've managed. Wondering whether to continue this, change direction, or not worry and play it by ear.
March 14 & 15 & 18. Earlier on, I took the first project to bed to look for areas of interest; they were mostly shapes or color combos. These days I take this to bed and it's the last thing I see before I fall asleep. It's lovely to observe how ideas pop up at the last thing at night or first thing in the morning, and how I manage to remember them. (Or, I can't remember what I forgot? More often I remember I had a good idea but can't remember what it was.) It helps also that I twist and turn this in all directions in bed and look at the details while I put this on the floor and look at the big picture during the day. One idea is a paint-splatter pattern; I had thought to experiment with paint first to get more accurate shapes, but I was too lazy. I might change my mind and undo these, but for now they stay.  And then Christchurch happened.
March 27.
April 9. I've been immersed in pension paperwork and haven't paid much attention to pretty much anything.
April 10. It takes a while to relearn the characteristics of each color after not working on this for a while.
April 16. Notre Dame burned.
April 17. Already feeling irrepressibly hopeful about Notre Dame, but not about a whole lot else.
April 26. I've been including more of the beige/taupes because the top left corner looks too yellow. But the piece looks so different under natural vs artificial lights. For now I'm calling this "slowly but fun-ly".
April 30. My life this year has been far more sucky than nice/hopeful/uplifting. Am I 1/3 done? It's a slow process but feels slightly quicker than last year.
May 8. I'm still undecided about the ivory splatter pattern, which causes me to not rotate the piece as much as I did last year's, which makes the overall look have more definite orientation. How do I remedy this? Add more splatter to make it go more or less all the way diagonally. Still unsure, intend to add a few more. Then while taking this pic, I see a nasty, smirking cat, and then to realize it's been lurking for a month now. If only you know how much I like cats. (I don't. It's hereditary.)
May 9. Though I like the patchwork-like square and rectangular shapes, I'd like a little more pointy volcanoes for better balance.
May 19. I like the curvy shapes popping up. Last year's project was to mimic collage, so I allowed a lot of straight lines and right angles; this year I've aimed to mix some freehand drawing/painting elements and it appears they are finally emerging.
May 21.The details and sections lose significance when the whole is finished; elements melt into the whole, but also stand out differently from when I'm making them. Because I've managed to work all stitches in the same direction so far, the canvas is hopelessly warped, which makes me think about stitching really big ones.
May 22. Needlepoint and knitting prove I, too, can do "incremental"; I do so enjoy these winter evenings. I wished I could draw this way, but there is still the big mental block, the effort required. I always thought of needlepoint as shapes but last night I started contemplating lines. I have not turned this one around enough as I worked and sometimes the views from the sides surprise/puzzle me.
June 28. I hadn't worked on this for a while, but spent the day yesterday getting back to it. Balancing the different shapes has become the main focus. I will be running out of a few colors soon.
July 1. Balancing/distribution of shapes is now top priority.
July 7. I'm starting to get a little bored and possibly disengaged.
July 10. It pays to stick with it; last couple of nights, nice curves/shapes appeared almost automatically. Phew.
July 11. I am at that stage where I can't wait to finish this, at the same time feeling a smidgen sad about finishing. I also see where this project failed in comparison to last year's, mostly due to my not looking at this from all different angles from the start/constantly.
July 16. I'm now holding my breath, trying hard to finish this, then the pension application, (the last of the backup document arrived today), and hoping and praying I can retread the cotton warp without too much delay and keep weeding; I want to get back to my relative-normal.
July 18. As I wrote yesterday, I've a few things I need to be working on urgently, plus a couple of "always" items, and some knitting I've been dying to start, (and hope to finish?) during this chilly period, but life has been temporarily suspended for this. I have overdone the new-to-me fan shape, but that's what happens when I make things up as I go; the lesson here is, mixing varied shapes/styles require vigilant planning in the distribution/placement department. This actually looks better upside-down; I'll show you when it's finished. I apparently had a bad day mid-July; I've had to take out three shapes I stitched that one night.
July 20. Finished; this is after hot-cold-hot-cold-hot weaver wash, and repeated steam press. This is the orientation I've been showing you all along. This year I cut off as much of the tape as I could to avoid glue spreading, which left me with really a small margin.
This is the orientation I like. Because I turned the piece around and looked at it from all direction, I didn't have a favorite in last year's piece. If I am to make a piece with a specific purpose, however, I don't know which is the better way to work.

1) Stitching in uniform direction warps the piece; I may build in changes in direction in the next experiment just for fun.
2) Last year I wanted to emulate collage shapes; this year I wanted to add some drawing/painting effects and I've managed a wider variety of shapes and effect, and I like the pale splatter, although I was completely unsure of it earlier. I had imagined shapes different from its surrounds would stand out, but it appears curves and fluid shapes stand out more than angular/regular shapes? This is worth exploring further.
3) The more variety in shapes/styles, the more distribution/placement planning is needed, whether it is to create harmony, or to contrast interesting/busy bits vs. boring/simpler bits.
4) Last year I had six yellows/oranges, (five in practice; the sixth was disruptive,) and six beige/browns; this year I had ten yellows/oranges and four three beige/browns, plus a place for last year's disruptive member, and proportionately far more skeins of the yellows. This year's is intensely yellow as a result, last year's washed out in comparison, but this year's was harder to work as I had to constantly compare the colors and a few day's rest required relearning some fine differences all over.
5) I kept referring to last year's sample for various reasons, among them to see if I stitched vertically vs horizontally the difference will wash out in the finishing. I had concluded it had, so in the last week I mixed directions to edit shapes, (i.e. in same colors,) or to create more interesting shapes. At least after one wash, the different appearances did not disappear, so I have unattractive bumps where I edited shapes. As regards the bumps in areas with trickier shapes, though, I find them attractive. Now the question is whether to stick to uniform directions to make each color area smooth, or use basketweave stick, which incidentally makes the reverse side layered/complicated/messy?/interesting.
6) I used dish detergent to wash this year's, while last year I had to wash four times including the third in white spirits to remove the tape glue which had spread all over the piece. Surprisingly I may have washed out more colors this year. Most obvious was with this taupy gray; the left is form last year, the right from this year; the original skein had a slightly yellower/browner appearance much like the left. I was taught this particular dish detergent was the standard for Kiwis washing unwashed/homespun yarns, so I wanted to give it a go, thinking more about the texture of wool rather than dyes. It's harsh on dyes. Because of the repeated washing, last year's piece has a better drape and behaves like a thick wool fabric which I love; this year's still maintains canvas stiffness. 

7) The last empty canvas I have is roughly this year's and last year's put together. I could of course cut it to make two more of these sizes. A big piece to hang inside the front door in the winter will be at least six times the size of these sample. 
8) Last year's piece took less than three months; this year 4.5, including some long breaks. While I enjoyed this year's experiment just as much, this time was easier in that I could put myself in autodrive once I sat down and picked up the canvas, and the mindless/meditative aspect of making things up as I go was beneficial but also natural.
9) While I have no plans to use this sample, either, I am considering giving this another wash and/or more vinegar baths. I'm trying not to think of next year's plan, but I have a few yellow skeins left. 

Good times.


/Insert Title/

I finished the needlepoint piece yesterday. I can't take pics today because it's been raining cats, dogs and monkeys. Suffice it to say, it's rough compared to last year's, disappointing, but more adventurous, which we're supposed to be with these experimentation, n'est-ce pas?
Also, Ben's beanie is finally under way. Last night I had five false starts; I hope this is about the right circumference. I could learn how to do this correctly from the start, but heck, if many false starts work... :-D (It's a nice saturated blue-green; a tad greener than the sweater.)    

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Last year I played around with weaving Syrie for RAW, but of course I was nowhere near even starting it. When I didn't hear about this exhibition April/May this year, (the show was in June last year,) I was disappointed, wondering if it was unsuccessful, but it's on a little later, and in a better time of the year for art shows.

On re/reading the specs: "RAW aims to showcase works:
  • created by people who have no formal or traditional art training
  • that express individuality and inventiveness
  • that are ‘RAW’ – uncooked by cultural and artistic influences"
First point, check; second point, check. But the third; I happen to think humans can't separate themselves from the "culture" they live in. Then there's my case: Japan, convent school, family configuration, Minnesota, New Zealand, everything I've ever read/heard/researched/seen/touched, what else? I realize I'm allowed to pick influence I like and discard others, except they are not separate components, just colors that make up the picture that is me. It's hard to separate/purge/keep some without the whole. I have no idea what I'm going to do, but I'd love to take part. I regret I didn't go see the show last year, but I decided to think that is a good thing; I'll be unencumbered by influences. This is due early September.

* * * * *

I'm also taking part in a semi-secret project for a local art charity; suffice it to say I have to put it on a 12"x12" canvas. I've pulled out my six framed Go Figure pieces; I enjoyed making them, I still like them, and maybe an idea or three will emerge from gazing at them. This is due in, oh gee, 2.5 weeks.

* * * * *

I rethreaded some more of the cotton warp on Wednesday, about 2/17 of the width; I've done 8/17 in all. I can't wait to weave the hellebore pieces, and the rethreading itself is not bad but the sitting on the tiny, folding "fishing" chair is hard on the old bod. Maybe I can get another 2/17 done today.

* * * * *

I also want to zoom right ahead and move onto the commission blanket before it gets warmer/hot; an added incentive is a new commission, a toddler blanket, which can be worked on the same warp. The warp colors have been decided in my head, but the threading needs to be versatile, one for an elegant couch blanket for a grownup and another drag blanket for a baby, gender not yet known, whose parents are from an exotic land. I ordered six colors for the latter weft, so the commission money is already spent, but this is going to be a new experience for me. More later when I start working on them.   

* * * * *

I weeded about one-third of my hellebore patch recently, and they are coming into bloom already, but we've had a lot of rain and some wind due to rapid temp changes, things haven't worked out well, until yesterday afternoon when it was perfectly chilly, cloudy, still, just the way I like. But I was determined to finish the needlepoint, so that's what I did. Ah, nothing like being sensible.

Speaking of rain, remember the unknown person who emailed me for coffee? Well, I couldn't meet her on the first appointed time because I got overheated in a meeting that Wednesday, and I was half an hour late in letting her know I wasn't coming. My bad. We had a second date last Friday, and I decided to take a different bus line, so I looked for the but stop, which took me nearly 45 minutes to get to, (I knew this and was prepared,) arrived 15 minutes early. The bus came a couple of minutes late, and drove right passed me in bucketing rain! I rang the bus company, rather desperate, the rain was coming down even harder, and there is little recourse in Nelson in these situations, so they sent a young ops manager to drive me to the cafe. Which was nice; I planned to ring a cab and take the receipt to the bus office to demand a refund.

I arrived at the cafe between 10-15 minutes late, drenched, a black Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in my sister's Soccer Mom puffy coat. I should have asked the two ladies already seated if either was she, but I didn't because I was a wet and embarrassed, figuring if she must have some idea what I look like. Neither approached me, I texted her twice, and waited for 45 minutes, all to no avail, and haven't heard since. It was a little disappointing because it's always exciting to meet another maker, massage each other's right hemisphere and talk making, but I tried the best I could. So it was nice to get the commission two days later. The weaving goddess taketh; the weaving goddess giveth.

I'll post process pics of the needlepoint as soon as I get descent pics, (not to mention, I know, '18 Japan pics...)


Gumption, Old Age, Parental Influence, or a Long Blather

When the tutor asked before the class started why we wanted to write memoirs/what we wanted to get out of the class, my answer, as you might have guessed, was "therapy". And I was going to write a post about this public/private-self thing I started to explore but can't remember now because it I didn't write it down right away, and if I forgot where I was going, it must not have been that important even to me. But this post is not entirely unrelated, to the therapy part. And though I haven't typed up the last three old stories I intend to keep, I'm not worried. My priorities are elsewhere. And I'm doing the right thing here.

I've been looking for a mid-to-long-term project with paper/canvas and paint, and though I gaze at Pinterest with that in mind, I'm still not sure what to make. I play around with paint, collage, and paper often enough, hoping that'll help me see, or even become parts I can use later, but so far, nothing. And I still can't stop thinking about "a project". I've lived with this for so long I'm almost comforted by not knowing, but it may come, suddenly or organically, or I may have to delve deeper in experimentation, or abandon it altogether, but I'm not fussed. I know this is the right approach for now.

You know I used to envy those who traveled, but the last few years it's been people with resolve/gumption/stamina to complete what they set out to do, specifically folks who finish (art) projects/series, submit to exhibitions, apply for/win/complete internships, or maintain a healthy stock of woven pieces to sell. I have the desire, (though if I'm not careful even that's been fading,) sometimes enough to look up details, and start thinking about tasks, schedule, cost, but "reasons I can't" take over before I know it. Not fear, but a grayer can't-be-bothered-ness, a mental/emotional lethargy. That is, if I don't forget whatever it was I was looking into just minutes ago. 

I try to stay engaged with making-related skills important to me. In the first instance it is to keep the inertia going so I need less energy to restart. I try to survey where I am, where and when I want to go, what to do when to get to there, and prioritize. I try to practice different skills, although inevitably I do more of what I like or feel good about and not the difficult ones. I'm lucky I don't mind practicing; I hated it as a kid and only ever wanted to play in recitals or big games without the daily grunt, but no longer. Goodness, I often enjoy sampling more than the real deal, and it doesn't matter if what I'm making now doesn't become something. I feel the "living in the moment" thing vividly yet unconsciously when I'm engaged in making/practicing. This is opposite to my previous, default, goal-oriented mindset, but I feel less grandiose and more honest. At the right time, Big Projects are thrilling and exciting, and there's nothing wrong with them, of course, but I feel rather... grown up about not everything I do having to be a Big Project.      

* * * * *

I wrote before that for decades Mom said she wanted to learn more about colors; how maybe a year it dawned on me this was only one item on her un/sub-conscious to-talk-about-with-Meg list, and at least in the last decade she had no intention for action and how I finally told her I was tired of talking unless we/she were going to do something. It may sound mean, but this kind of repetition is soul-destroying for solution-oriented listeners like me.

Of late her talking point is a variation of, "Where do you get your motivation?", "How do you come up with it?", "Where did you learn to think like that?", etc, regarding design. These may sound interesting and worthy of discussion, and I gladly engage every week, but again, she's not serious about leaning/studying. I don't mind Mom forgetting two if I tell her three ways; I don't mind Mom dissing me when an experiment didn't work as long as she tries. But in her hands, or mouth rather, these important-to-me topics are reduced to small talk, for which I never had the patience. She in fact told me when I was 13 to politely walk away from small talks because I became visibly irritated; she didn't know how to teach me that.    

In her weaving, Mom relied on other people; she had/has multiple teachers, and often wove to recipes. She seldom/never sampled, and everything she made turned into something, except when instructed to sample new structures. Lately, I make up drafts and put on warps when I'm home so she can select wefts and weave. She doesn't see the point non-project activities.

Mom forever criticized Dad, to us, for being a talker, by which she meant he was all ideas and no action. And I was/am like him, so I took it as a criticism of me. Dad was a Chemistry prof, so he did a lot of thinking, although in the labs he did a lot of doing/instructing, and I was lucky to witness it more than any other in the family. He also read more than Mom, was innately opinionated, so he opined, although in fairness, he was never as sedate as Mom made him out to be. Mom pushed us to action; Dad instructed us with logic.

One of the funniest times was a few years before I got married. Dad took the family ice-skating to a resort near Mt Fuji. Except for Mom, we're no skaters, but it'd been a while since the family went anywhere together, so at first we indulged him but soon started to have real fun. After a while Dad, not a good skater, got tired so he returned his skates, borrowed a pair of oversized rubber boots, took up prime position at the side of the rink, and began shouting instructions/theory at us. Oh, he knew the theory alright, and he could see how the angle of our blades needed correction and couldn't understand why we simply didn't do as he said.

You'd think we'd be embarrassed, but instead the rest of us burst out laughing because this was the perfect snapshot of our family. Dad instructing us from the sideline in borrowed boots, full of book knowledge; us trying hard to "dance to his beat". The memory is all the more precious because we all had different interpretations on Dad's personality, but this was one of the few instances when we agreed spontaneously, and in a good way.

As I grew older, I increasingly admired Mom's doer quality, of taking up new challenges whatever, whenever, always looking forward. When she was in her 70's, I sincerely hoped to inherit this attitude and Ben and I still remember that conversation.

As I write, I see the reason why I can't quit weaving, or being a weaver, (besides the stash) is because this is the one instance of the conflicting Momness and Dadness in me working in harmony: I like a fresh challenge, the newness of projects, the looking forward to future pieces, but I'm also like to study, prepare, experiment and practice to make something better than the last one, or do it better than the last time. Which is probably why I enjoy every process of weaving most days. (Now if I had Dad's physical dexterity, I could have been a mind-blowingly awesome weaver, but I'm still waiting on that.) For someone whose syllabus never mentioned "feeling comfortable in one's own skin," I say, this is huge.  

What I'm trying to say is, my irritation with Mom these days is multiplied by the fact she was the one who admonished us for talking but not doing. I feel obliged to listen like a good daughter when I know we're going nowhere; I'm supposed to "kikinagasu", (listen and let it flow downstream,) but I missed the lesson on that.

I too am old now, struggling to keep the pace I used to just a few years ago. I'm oh-so-aware of how much she influenced my views, how she hoped I'd be more like her, (to the detriment, I now see, to my relationship with Dad in some ways.) I know the weird shadows her words/problems cast on me without my noticing the last few years; that symbiosis. It's all the more alarming because I never had the kind of parent/child relationship you see in novels and films with either parent, but at least I understood Dad.

Now I'm so aware I'm running out of time to fix whatever.

* * * * *

"Saki-ori" (tear-weaving) is rag weaving in Japanese. Dad used to call Mom an expert "Kuchi-saki-ori" weaver; "kuchi-saki" means "front of your mouth" or words not accompanied by emotions or action. I now see how painful it must have been for Dad, when they were alone in the big house, for Mom to go on about her weaving plans about which Dad may have had only vague ideas and perhaps no interest. He, too, was a solution-oriented listener, and though always ready to help if asked, the endless talk must have been tiresome.

But then he yelled at politicians on the telly until he turned red, so maybe they were a good match after all. 

And I can write these things because Mom doesn't read my blog.

* * * * *

You know we live in a cold house; I told you we've had a cold spell. I went into town on Wednesday for a lunchtime writer's meeting, which itself was nice, meeting new people, etc, except by then I had decided to shelve all writing so I was a real imposter. Anyway he two hours I had to kill before the meeting, I spent in Ben's work library, and the meeting itself was in a lovely pub. I don't know if they were heated excessively or to "normal" indoor temps, but I became light-headed and felt sick, I had to spend the rest of the day in bed. So, although I am feeling the cold a little more than I used to, and I blame old age, I still don't like hot, either.

61 is such a fussy age.