Things I Encountered for the First Time in my 65th Year Part II (The Less Tragic Bits)

I haven't done two posts/day in a while, but I didn't want to finish with a downer so here come the good bits. 

* * * * * 

Since turning 65, I started receiving pension, and that's made a big difference in my outlook on life. For the first time I am saying out loud I had no net income since I left my last office job in February 2000, (except for a six-month stint in 2004,) which is over half of my adult working life. It's not that I never thought about this, and I always said Ben "lets me do this", (and when he was alive, "with a little help from Dad,") but to declare it freely feels honest and liberating. So let's hear it: financially I've been a looser and a waster, and there's nothing I can do now to remedy the past. 
I felt really bad for a day or two after I typed these sentiments, but that won't change the past. That post, "Did I Live My Life the Right Way?" was supposed to be a look back at how I could not look at weaving as a financial venture, or change my ways to try to make it so. I was and am a slow weaver, and "minimum 10 in each gallery" was the best I could achieve, thanks to slow sales. Local galleries were my safest bet, even though Auckland and Queenstown may have been more lucrative as I was reminded often, I am a control freak and if I can't visit the galleries often to see how things were displayed, what was selling, those places weren't for me. (I did try Wellington in 2007.) And I had heard enough stories of some of the well-known galleries/shops not paying artists or paying upwards of nine months later after much reminder/peasing; who needs that?
I also know that in my job in the 80s at IBM to the ones here at the Polytech, I always felt varying degrees of dissatisfaction, admin/secretarial/even entry-level IT jobs never rising above "busy work". I got paid just for showing up and I put in 110%, because I don't know any other MO, but there was never time to put thoughts into what I was doing, to make something better, to instill quality into the output. Regardless of the outcome of the pieces, I get that satisfaction from weaving. (Or unimaginable regret/disgust/dismay I never felt in office jobs. :-D)

I also couldn't get rid of the defeatist aftertaste of having retired because I couldn't sell my work. But it's true: I couldn't, so I did. And that led to the loss of confidence and detachment which prevented me from trying to make nicer/different things without diluting my making, or approach other galleries.  

The best remedy was to get back on the loom, with Sunflower II, after long months of pulling out weeds and breaking clay with my hands. It felt lovely to be weaving again, thinking about colors for this project, plans for future ones, and knowing this piece is going to be... OK! I missed having projects one after another, not rushing to "make things" but to keep thinking of the next project and the one after, as future projects are destined to be better than the current. In my head. 

Opportunely, Esther told me the Suter Shop had a new manager, so I went to meet her. Annie is lovely, calm, professional, and we seem to have similar ideas about what the Suter Shop should be. Even better, the shop itself had calmed down, shedding the gift shop busyness, heading back towards a craft-oriented "local" gallery shop. And that on the 19th of December is quite an achievement! Textiles were not shoved in the bottom shelf, some just rolled up like in a teenager's close, but displayed all around/near/between other attractive work. I told her I might bring something in the near future, but that will be next year. We'll see how it goes. 

I am not coming out of retirement. Nooooo! But I hope I can still make a few nice things in my own time. This may be my last hurrah in making-to-sell, and if so, dare I hope it last several years? This could also be an atonement for my financial failure, not a reparation, but a reconciliation with myself.

* * * * *

Also new this year: Pension now allows me to think about things we put off, particularly in the years I travelled to Japan to help my elderly parents. Looking back I don't know if I was indeed helping, if they felt I was, or if the trips were just nice holidays for me while Ben stayed behind working.

The Top Two of the things I put off have been replacing the primary heating system from wood to electric, and fixing my teeth. Re. the heating, it has not been just the cost, though; the most popular method being heat pumps/air conditioners, we've had a couple of assessments but I don't like hot or cold air blowing in my direction. We are getting too old to haul firewood up steep and turning steps, and we seem to need more wood/heat as we get older, so we need a solution soon. I am even toying with the idea of solar panels, (they they are again!) to store power rather than heat water. The more straight-forward is of course the teeth: I don't like going to the dentists. But one front tooth keeps chipping away.

* * * * *

"They" say one should do good deeds and not talk about it, or something to that extent. But I'm going to, not to boast, but because I've been so very happy about these. It's been worth paying taxes, even in the years of my negative net income, now that my pension is allowing me to give back a little, and be nit-picky in the process. 

Something I'd long forgotten was I always hoped to donate to a good cause in a "big" way, and in a somewhat sustained manner. I used to give to large organization at times of natural disasters around the world, but I haven't trusted large organizations for a couple of decades, too much administration cost, with money/goods not reaching the folks who actually need them. So this century, it's been to local organizations I can see and visit in Nelson, and preferably good so I can contribute to local retailers if not NZ manufacturers.

This winter, for the first time, I donated a good number of NZ-made soup mixes, King's, every time we went to the supermarket, sometimes multiple times a week. This is a reliable product that we bought when we first came to New Zealand to cook on a black pot belly stove in our round black ceramic pot; tastes good and not pre-processed/artificial; comes in a small-ish packet making 8 servings, (we tested a few to make sure;) fits the donation box criteria, (here, supermarkets have large bins you can drop donations in, super easy;) and inexpensive and affordable for me. At first I felt good, but like all good deeds, once you get in the habit, it's just part of life. Until the temperatures warmed up and these packs were moved within the store. I haven't found a suitable warm-season replacement that is healthy and NZ-made, (I figure, why not help two parties if I can,) but if not, I'll stick with Kings, (we have soups in summer?), or go with healthy Australian. :-D And because sadly some folks are really going to need help under our new government.

The other thing I've done over the years was to donate books, particularly to young people, and this has been super easy since the opening of, you know, Volume. (Full disclosure, owners Stella and Thomas have saved my sanity figuratively and "literally", almost weekly.) Not only does the shop participate in seasonal donation drives, I can buy online and just put a note to please give to a suitable school/persons.

Goodness me, I am choosy; I scour Volume's website, publishers'/authors' websites, watch interview vids if any, and even some Amazon reviews, (UK or Australia if I can find any as their views are closer to Kiwis',) before deciding. It's now almost a hobby. I've upped my game of late, and I'm super happy about the books I've chosen and the opportunities I have. Enough said.  
In October, I spoke to a young library staff in the neighbouring town of Motueka, as we drove near their fancy new building we were totally unaware of. In the true spirit of a vocational librarian, (i.e. it is her vocation,) what made her happiest about the new building was the community is using their conference space, including local schools who have seen funding cuts for books and resources. So I'm on the right track, though I might have to expand the geography.

* * * * * 

I organized a party for "strangers". As I mentioned in the last post, Ben's department has been going through a number of organization changes since 2019/20 with staff leaving/joining. I've been lucky enough to make friends with a few of the wives, mostly online, one leaving Nelson altogether. And many staff being of the younger lot, there have been three new humans joining the "family". By chance, (I asked on FB if anyone wanted to adopt plants I propagated,) I learned Mrs Christchurch was coming on a family holiday to Nelson, and because I talk/type before I think, I asked if she would like me to organize a get-together so her kids could make a grand debut, and she was game. 

The magnitude of the endeavour slowly reached me that night. We're talking the middle of a busy summer holiday; at least five staff who have left; and six current staff, three of whom I've never even met, though Ben insists I met one. Can I get a hold of everybody? As luck would have it, Ben had the email addresses of folks who weren't my FB friends, and the current Manager helped me read the new folks, so using DM and email, it wasn't difficult. Although in the emails, I always said, "Meg,  Ben's Wife". And in the final, formal invite, I forgot to put in the date. :-D 

The get-together was last Friday. We had around 12 grownups and four littlies, and it was a cacophony of merriment, reminiscing, catching up and comparing notes on IT work places. Two more grownups abstained because they woke up with coughs; two forgot after they returned from walking the Abel Tasman the previous day, (we settled on the 29th because they would be back!! :-D) and one family couldn't make it after another a do earlier in the day. It was really indeed lovely to catch up, meet people I've been talking to online, but also to talk properly outside the office. And I offloaded a dozen plants, and even got lovely feedback about my weaving, including from one person I did not realize knew I wove. And I got to hold a five-month-old, the first babe since Jan 2001 after my nephew #2.

It was in a large room, but sans windows, sans much air flow, and yeah, we were more than a little nervous, but then there was the food drinks so the masks came off. Ben woke up with a cough and I with a scratchy throat on Saturday, so we'll test in the next few days even though we're without symptoms today. (We have six boxes due to expire in January, so might as well.) We are still living cautiously and Ben masks up often when indoors, me when in close quarters indoors, so I can't say nonchalantly that it was all worth it. But... it was fun, and lovely, and very much worth organizing. And I keep telling you, Ben really works with some of the nicest folks we know.

It's not the first time it happened, but it was the first time I was very much aware I was oldest in the room. That's going to happen more and more often, I reckon.
* * * * * 
I might have known about the Green Bin scheme for a couple of years, but Esther definitely recommended it late last year, and we joined in April. The company collects up to 240L/70kg, (which is not a lot,) of garden rubbish every fortnight. We have to haul it up the steep driveway, but then the rubbish is gone. It's much more convenient, pleasant, and encouraging than saving the rubbish all year and getting a large skip once a year about now to load up the stuff. It also makes me go outside for short spurts even if I can't be bothered investing a whole day of weeding and digging and breaking clay.

This is definitely one of the top, bestest things we started this year, and we intend to continue the subscription.
* * * * *
I've finally started buying Paperblank notebooks for myself in 2019. Before that, only as gifts as I was so afraid of ruining them. But jotting down a few lines of mundane blather each day has been useful in noting some of life's "events" lest I'll forget the next day. Tonight is the last I write in the Morris, and tomorrow I start on Vincent. (It's a bit too sparkly, but never mind, it's in my favored shape/size.) This feels like a steady component in a life without too many steady components. There is nothing new about these, but that's OK, too. 

And thus I conclude what I think is the last post of 2023. (Can't guarantee, still not 5PM here.) Dear friends, I hope the turning of the calendar gives you hope and resolve and most of all a little light in your 2024.

See you on the other side.


Things I Encountered for the First Time in my 65th Year Part I (But It's Not All Bad)

If brevity be the soul of wit, time and time again I prove myself witless. I worked on this post off and on for four months, finished and posted on Christmas day. That evening, then one of these issues came back to bite us, and I wondered why I feel compelled to (over)share, and I withdrew. But a week removed, I feel if this allows one person to laugh with me or at me or feel relieved their year was a tad saner, why not. So with lightness of heart, but never forgetting the folks with real problems, here I go again.

* * * * * * 
A word of caution, warning, something: there's no need for alarm or concern. Most issues were solved; others are now part of our lives. 
* * * * *

At around October last year, I started wishing the year would end soon and that 2023 would be a much better year. I can't remember what exactly was bad about 2023, except I did have a mild spell of depression, not bad enough to consult with the doctor but a prolonged period of extreme ho-hum. Plus an over-the-top new hay-fever symptoms that were painful and kept me inside with windows closed for maybe six to nine months. Little did I know 2023 had nothing on 2024.
This year started OK. I wove a bunch of Swedish Cottolin, and moved on to the multi-color tied-weave, before the big loom broke, and then I messed up the threading/sleying while checking to see if the loom was fixed. I haven't touched that loom/warp since, but I know I will get back to it. The loom is in the basement, so not a bad place to work in the height of the summer, or the winter for that matter. 

I did a lot of gardening, making up for nearly a year's neglect, and because friends got in on the veg gardening early. Most of winter and spring was spent aerating the veg patches, breaking chunks of clay by hand, and of course weeding. This work hasn't stopped, but I've learned to pace myself, rather than to follow the veg's schedule, because it's getting harder and harder on the body. 

In August, our world started to... I won't say crash or crumble, but let's say it's been a dozen-gazillion paper cuts day after day after day. We seem to be on a break at the moment, but the year has changed our attitude from "glad that's over" kind of easy outlook to "what next?" dread all the time.
* * * * *
Ben was hospitalized for bacterial infection after a routine test on August 1, after a 20-minute test took nearly an hour due to two faulty test kits. Neither of us had ever been really sick, the only time we went to the hospital was to visit family, plus a super detailed health check available through work back in Japan, which we signed up for because neither of us had ever stayed in a hospital. I tried hard to remember what Mom had in Dad's always-ready bag, packed an abridged version and brought it with us after a specialist nurse told me to get him get to ER ASAP. After nine hours in the ER, he ended up in a ward and was stuck there for four days. They never figured out which bacteria was the culprit, except Ben was told, "not Ebola." I hope not, because he had a pre-op roommate!
We learned hospital stay is all about waiting; waiting to be seen by a doctor/nurse/specialist, waiting for meals, waiting for tests, waiting for results, waiting for a doctor/nurse/specialist to "be right back," and waiting for the lovely tea lady to come around to make tea/coffee and leave bickies. And hospital wards are noisy! Everybody's machines are ticking and beeping; nurses are being called all the time; some folks talked loudly, and to boot they had an emergency bell test, (or was it failure?) Down the hall there were seriously sick folks, and the air was heavy with hushed conversation amidst all the other noise. 

On the plus side, Nelson City Council revamped the bus system and the new all-electric services commenced also on August 1. They didn't gauge usage/popularity beforehand, but just started running several new lines at once, and made the connection at the CBD (city center) better, so I didn't have to take the taxi to/from the hospital. Best trip took 45 minutes, worst 90 late at night, but it felt so civilized to have public transportation in little old Nelson. And since I'm over 65, non-busy hours I ride free, otherwise half price. Last I read, the buses remain very popular. 

* * * * *

A pension office staff gave me the wrong information on the phone. I didn't believe her but the young woman was so adamant, I had to accept it. It turned out she was wrong, and long-story-short, I had to make several phone calls and resubmit forms, causing other folks to rework my case. I did get an admission of error of sorts from a second staff, but, oh, what a lot of bother! Also unusual for the usually knowledgeable and courteous office.  
I am, though, having increasing problem understanding simple admin procedures, so I try to read things several times before asking questions, or worse expressing displeasure. But also, I've correspondingly decreasing patience with other people's mistakes. After all, they get paid to do their work.

* * * * *

In the same week I learned my bank changed its notification policy, but put it only in a small print, so I missed out on the government contribution portion of voluntary retirement fund savings. I made a complaint, and the staff asked me what outcome I was hooping for, (which I thought was a strange question,) but I gathered my courage and said I wanted either the bank or the government to pay me the amount.
In this scheme, account holders must deposit a minimum amount to qualify for government contribution every year; for waged folks it happens incrementally but automatically every time they get paid, but for us unwaged, we have to make a deposit. The staff checked the last ten years of my deposits, confirmed I always deposited requisite amount immediately after the bank reminded me of the due date. 
The hard part was, it took him a few days to find out where the change was "announced", at the bottom of their regular financial reports, instead of a targeted email as in all the past years. He thought it was unfair, and guess what, I got the amount from the bank, which to the unwaged, was no small win. My bank is well-known for good customer services, and the chap was a ever-so calm but conscientious. I was rude at first, but wanted to adopt him at the end.

* * * * *

In the same week: the coating on my eyeglass lens "melted", which apparently happens when folks feed the wood burner, or open a boiling pot or hot oven, with our faces too close. It was a first for me, even though I've been wearing glasses with similar coating for nearly 30 years. Anyway, Jim, whose taken care of my optical needs for as long, said insurance covers this.

So I rang, emailed, filled online forms, but nothing. About a week later, I received an form email with a claim number, saying someone will call me. Another nothing for a week and a fortnight? I had to get back to Jim because it had taken too long and I got the glasses back, and Jim sorted it out at his end.

A month or so later, insurance folks sent us the annual invoice, in which for some strange reason they decided one of Ben's cars we had since 2006 suddenly moved to a different city! In retrospect, we should have just emailed back, but I rang, and it took a long time to get that sorted, and check the info on the other car.

Then, because they had just upgraded their system days before, could they go over the details of our house and contents insurance? I said no, I've got to go, but the woman went on and on about the responsibilities of the policy holder, at the same time saying she was verifying all data was transferred from the old system correctly, and it became easier to just answer. We've had the same policies with the same people for over 20 years, and re. the house or contents, (who lives here, how many stories,) nothing had changed. But she insisted the information wasn't in the system, and she will update it for me, for $48!! I said don't because nothing had changed since the start, but she said it's too late, she's already input it. I felt tricked! 

Had I presence of mind, I would have checked documents received in the past years to see if I could prove that the information was there before their computer system upgrade. But I was too flustered I didn't. So we were charged $48 for nothing, for being a loyal customer with only a couple of claims in over 20 years. (OK, they did replace a car in 2001, but it wasn't an expensive car.)  
* * * * * 
2004 turned out to be an Unprecedented Year of Technology Updates, another first. I hate mindlessly upgrading for the sake of upgrading, (and what do we do with all the electronic rubbish?) and if we must, we've staggered our purchases, but this year was all go:   

1) Ben's 10-year-old desktop, except the monitor upgraded after the first lockdown, which was starting to cause trouble when he was working from home;
2) Ben's new laptop, after his ancient tablet suffered a slow death;
3) Ben's personal cell phone, after his work-issued cell became outdated after 4(?) years; 
4) My laptop, which wasn't old but always had power supply problems in spite of frequent parts replacement, and; 
5) My phone battery, because I dropped it on the bathroom tile and it started ballooning, which alarmed Ben... alarmingly.
6) And because of the many purchases, we accumulated enough points for Ben to get an eBook reader, which he needed after the loss of his tablet, laptop being too clunky and bright.

Luckily, Ben sold 1), 2) and 4) for parts. Poor guy, he's what you call a nerd, but his somewhat Greenie wife doesn't let him indulge in modern, short-lift-expectancy toys. All the savings we made in petrol and living frugally during the lockdown years disappeared, if it hadn't already to cover the high cost of food, but that's Twenty First Century life, I'm told.

* * * * *
My Dad and I have low blood pressure and that was one thing we weren't going to have to worry as we aged and accumulated health woes. Well, that changed for me a couple of months ago; I was told to loose weight and lower BP or I'll have to go on meds. It's still under observation, but I have been marginally more physically active, or at least aware on days I'm not, and we were suddenly eating outrageously healthily, until the arrival of the festive carbohydrate season. 
Must. Do. Better. 
* * * * *
I had a woman come knocking on my door one day asking if we'd be interested in fully-funded solar panels. She mentioned a supposedly government-funded organization, and she could send an engineer to assess our suitability. But what really made me suspicious was, we just had an election and an "all-for-businesses, nothing-for-free" government was elected. I doubted such schemes, if it existed, would stay. And our government tend to do things directly, and the onus is usually on us to apply, not them coming around to see if we want free anything. Plus, I daresay, mine is not the street where people who need help live, and "government" money would do better elsewhere, (although, Right-leaning parties may want to curry favour with folks on our street.)

She didn't have an ID, and wore a polo shirt that just said, "Solar", but other than that, didn't look dodgy. I politely/pointedly declined when she asked for a copy of our power bill. It was a first cold call of this kind, not online or by phone, which made it a little creepy.

I also thought about how easily I open our doors, and whether we need some kind of security system; I think about that often, but secretly think something bad would never happen on our street. I'm not sure if this is wise any more in a year when our Courthouse was closed once, the Airport twice in December alone because of unspecified threats, while our new government run their thoughtless mouths like everybody else's Right Wingers. 

* * * * * 

There is the reorganization of the Polytechnic (tertiary but not university) organization nationwide that Labour started before the 2017 election. Ben works in one. There is a whole lot I could rant about but they are not necessarily fact-based, so I'll just give you the gist that really bothers me. 

Although stuff had been happening like staff leaving, nothing directly affected Ben's work until October/November that I was aware of. After the election, when it was clear Labour lost, the powers that be kept travelling, holding all day meetings, and distributing steeply vertical, multi-page organization charts, (with some slots still unfunded,) in which every Polytech IT staff around the country were to be slotted in. After intense consultation, with folks safely slotted, a big announcement was made that effective April next year, operation will be switched to the new mode. And then the new government, after six weeks of gestation, announced their first Wish List, among them, "begin disestablishment of Te Pukenga (the consolidated Polytechnics,)" followed by the ministerial announcement Polytechnic management will revert to the local level by the start of April. My vague feeling is, this was a whole lot of announcement with not thought/plan/specifics, because to which stage will they return? But... enough. Watch this space. Or not.

* * * * * 

On the same week, in Early November, came Ben's big inheritance problem. Long story short, A family member passed away a year and a half ago, with ten years' of unpaid taxes on a farmland, (not sure if the deceased even knew about it, or if it came up with the inheritance,) and since those nearest and dearest have forfeited said "inheritance", Ben was among the next in line. This one consumed us for a fortnight, until Ben's sister came forward saying she forfeited the same six months ago, and crucially her forfeiture was accepted about the time Ben received the tax office letter. For now, we've sent her all the documents we/she understood were needed for her to submit to the appropriate place, but who knows what will come next.  

* * * * * 

Still a week left of 2023, I sincerely hope this is it for the bad news for us. If you lasted this long in the Ben and Meg's Horrible Year 2023 Saga, I promise the next bit is a bit more uplifting.


Dear Ivy

I have enjoyed learning from your Dad what you have been up to. And while I don't want to change anything you do, I thought I'd tell you something about my weaving machines, which we call "looms". And if my explanations aren't easy to understand, I think your Dad can help. 
Once, when I was at university, I became interested in how weaving worked, and like you I made a loom myself. It was like this one, but much, much bigger. These are called "frame looms", (like picture frames,) and weavers sometimes use them to make "pictures".
I didn't make a picture, but I used a similar loom to make the fabric for this bag a few years ago. I'm posting the photo sideways because that's how I wove it on the loom. 

There are bigger looms for making big pictures; the pictures are called "tapestries", and the looms are called, guess what, "tapestry looms". I don't have a tapestry loom, but here are some pictures. Some are as big as a whole wall.
The way to use these looms are much the same as how you might have woven on your invention, or I on my big frame loom; you pick the warps, (usually the up/down threads,) by fingers/hand, needles, or a tool called shuttles, and squeeze the wefts, (usually from side to side,) between them. In fact, you can weave this way on most looms, because the first purpose of a loom is to hold the warps securely in their places, so you can put the weft through.
* * * * * 

Now I'm going to tell you a tiny bit about shaft looms, which seem complicated, but they aren't. They just look it. There are very many kinds of shaft looms, it would make my head spin trying to explain them all, but they do two things: they hold the warps in place, and they lift up some of the warps, while leaving other warps down, to make a gap where you can pass the weft through.

Remember, the warps are the yarns that stay in place more or less, while wefts are the ones you pass between warps at each step, to make the cloth.
Here is a picture of some wefts being lifted, and you see the gap where the wefts can pass through.
These show my weft going through the gap. My weft is wound on a cardboard bobbin I made.   
Shaft looms also have a tool called the beater, so the wefts can get pushed straight against the wefts before, making the cloth look neater. (Although sometimes, like in my bag, I didn't want the lines to be all straight.)

That's it. The simplest shaft loom, called a "rigid heddle loom", gives the weavers two sets of warps: a first set goes up when a second set stays down and your weft passes through the gap; then, the first set, which went up the last time, stays down, and the second set goes up, and your weft passes through this new gap.

Fancier looms has many shafts, so you can have different sets go up and down, making more complicated-looking patterns possible, but the mechanism is all the same. Instead of us lifting some of the threads by finger/hand/needle/shuttle, the loom does it for you. While complicated looms allows us to weave complicated-looking cloths quickly, some of the neat tricks we can do on simpler looms become harder or impossible to do. But that's for another day.
I look forward to seeing a picture of your scarf, Ivy. 

* * * * * 

A Very Happy Christmas to you, your family and friends.
Pohutukawa - New Zealand Christmas Tree 


Did I Live My Life the Right Way?

It's really summer here now; it's sunny and hot and some weeds are in flower and this year we seem to have thrice the garden bugs, (the icky kind,) than usual. Still, we are alive, not amidst a war, not amidst a natural disaster, living a nice, First World life, in Ben's last week of work before a three-week break. I can't complain.

A while ago, after a minor life disaster was overcome, I became angry I wasn't weaving, that my life became beholden to a random garden schedule and other life administrivia, as Laura Fry calls them. So I "took a day off" and started a new piece on the Sunflower warp.
I was pleasantly surprised I got right back on the saddle, just lifting, weaving, beating, until my attention started to wane after, oh, 7cm? Salvedges were good, and the usually weird tension wasn't weird. Until Day 2. 
You know, I got greedy about colors, overthought the lifting, and started thinking all sorts of potentials while weaving; my lifting got erratic and I had to unweave quite often. Then I remembered one of the things I used to do was to line up wefts, sometimes just the tie-down, sometimes just the pattern, sometimes both, so I could concentrate on the lifting and only when to change colors. 

These are the tie-down 60/2s for the next wee while. Gradation is pretty, and lovely for harmony, but also sometimes too sedate, so I'm happy to go with these, but may inject a surprise color here and there. For now I'm picking up pattern colors from the ice cream tub more or less in gradation but not strictly, as you can see in the top pic. And some weirdness in the tension started to appear about 1/5 of the way in on the left, but it's not serious. I might fiddle with it the next time I weave, or ignore and go on.

And suddenly, (or not, I have to think about this one,) I wondered if I wanted to investigate the state of galleries in town, to see if I wanted to sell again. I'm not going to hurry the weaving, particularly these ones which are crazy labour-intensive, but in the most general sense, did I want to get back on to that saddle for one last hurrah for as long as I can manage, my body can manage, and I can feel excited about the things I make. We shall see.

I was going to write a completely different post today, (ergo the cryptic title,) but here we are, a quiet, satisfied, weave-y post to start the week.

More to come soon, good people.


What Do I Mean by Tied (Unit) Weave? - a Very Short Version

As I mentioned in the last post, my problem with writing this post has been to explain in words, using correct tied unit weaves jargon, something I've done instinctively since I first wove in this manner in 2010. Then to gauge what you might know, and/or if you want to even know what I do. (Let me know, all three of you reading this blog? :-D) 
So, I decided to give you this very short version. I hope I covered every anomaly. If you know tied unit weaves, no problem. If not, I've listed three trustworthy sources I turn to at the bottom of this post. Or you can ask me anything, and I shall endevour to reply as best I can. If additional post/s emerge/s from there, all the better.
* * * * * 
My Wagamama* Tied Unit Weave
* For warp and weft, I choose colors and numbers randomly, not corresponding to the structure. 
* I use 20/2 cotton for the warp and pattern wefts, and 60/2 for the tie-down.

* I have sampled two, three, four or five shafts for tie-down, usually in straight draw or point; (in case of two shafts, 1-p-2-p-2-p-1-p instead of point.) Once I wove a five-shaft-undulating twill tie-down in a workshop, which I liked very much, but darn it, that's the one sample I seem to have lost. (t is for tie-down threads/shafts; p for pattern.)

* I thread in pairs, i.e. tie-down and pattern alternately, t-p-t-p. I sampled t-p-p-t-p-p but from memory I wasn't pleased with the result in that instance.
* I use whatever number of shafts left for pattern and thread them randomly.
* For tie-down shafts in pattern shots, I follow the standard order for the chosen tie-down scheme. For example, successive pattern shots may be: 
* (T is now for tabby/ground shots, and P for pattern shots, [whichever tie-down shaft/s required plus all/some/none of the pattern.]) I often select pattern shafts by looking at the ways the levers were positioned on each loom. One such example would be two shafts clockwise, using 1 and 2 for tie-down:    

* Sometimes I insert two pattern wefts, e.g.

* * * * * 
If you are interested tied unit weaves, here are three good resources:
* Strickler's "A Weaver's Book of 8-Shaft Patterns" lists gazillion drafts on eight shafts, divided into an array of weave structures, each chapter starting with a brief description of the structure. Chapter 15 covers Summer & Winter; 18, Other "Tie" Weaves. Oh, the book describes sinking shed, which I did not noticed until a few years I had the book.

* At the comprehensive end, now-defunct Weaver's Magazine put out a compilation of articles in book form, one of which is "The Best of Weaver's - Summer & Winter Plus". Most are project instructions, but about a quarter of the way in is, "An Introduction to Tied Unit Weaves and Their Relatives", by one Jacquie Kelly, accompanied by photos of woven samples and descriptive drafts, (thick yarns are drawn plump.) If you need visuals to understand weaving, this is for you.

The chapter in question is an article taken out of one of their magazines; I wished I could tell which issue, but I haven't been able to find it the book. If you belong to a guild with back numbers of this awesome magazine, you might get lucky, in which case I would love to hear from you so we can share the info.  

* Donna Sullivan's "Summer & Winter" takes a deep dive into the best known of tied weaves, Summer & Winter, including use of colors, treadling variation, etc. It also has photos of the prettiest woven pieces. At the end of the book are 21 pages on "Other Tied Unit Weaves", which is mind-boggling in its scope, with drafts. There is still so much we could do! 

* * * * *

"Wagamama" is selfish, willful, self-centered, etc., in Japanese. It has nothing to do with noodles. :-D


Oh, What a Different Post This has Become

Hello! It's really been a while. I hope you are well. And weaving. My life has been... eventful and same-old at once, but included no weaving for four months.
First thing first; I did something unthinkably stupid. After I wove the first tied (unit) weave sample in early July and had loom problems, (the shafts weren't lifting/dropping propery,) I only tied some, not all, of the ends in front of the reed, thinking I'll get to the next sample as soon as the loom was fixed. But it took a couple of weeks to get the problem sorted. And then one morning, on my way out to weed, I tested to make sure the lifting was indeed fixed, without tying or advancing the warp so they wouldn't slip out of place. (Insert head-exploding emoji.) The shed on the big loom is generous, so in doing this, many untied ends slipped behind the reed, (which would have been no big deal,) but some slipped out of the heddle as well, and at 42EPI, it's tricky to remedy. 
The truth is, I wasn't thrilled with the threading anyway; I thought 11 was too many pattern shafts for the kind of look I think I had I mind, so I was already thinking of rethreading. But to have the warps slip through because of laziness thus having to rethread was disappointing-with-swear-words. The warp is still sitting in a hot mess, but I'll get to it. And threading will be better than before. :-D
I've also been working off and on on that post where I try to explain "my" kind of tied (unit) weave. I've been weaving tied weave in a particular way since my first warp, it's been a discovery/revelation to relearn how it's different from the usual, to try to explain what I do instinctively on the loom in writing, in the correct tied weave language. The weaving itself is not a big deal; if you came over to my basement I could show you in a couple of minutes, and if you know tied weaves you'll get the gist. Or do you even want to know? And if I insist on telling you, how much about the normal tied weaves should I to include; or skip the normal bits and give you just numbers so you can work it out if you ever want to? Do you even want to know what I do? 
I'll probably write about it (badly) in the not too distant future, because it's the sort of thing I enjoy clarifying for myself. At the root of this indecisiveness is my faltering fluency, not with the structures themselves but the language of tied weaves. Still, onwards. 

* * * * * 

August was a bad month that included a short hospital stay, (Ben, not me, but a first for either of us beyond visiting or routine checks;) Japanese pension screw up; bank pension fund screw up; and insurance non-response, none by my doing. Phew! In the end they all came out right, but I was exhausted, and felt really dumb and old.
I have a circle of friends who aren't what you call "keen Kiwi gardeners" but who had success in their veg patches last summer, and very early on they started talking about this year's crop. So I joined them, ridiculously early for me, preparing a veg patch, in between regular weeding. My veg patch prep involves lots of clay breaking, and because of my bad right hip, I tend not to use the large forks/shovels but hand tools, which sprung a whole new right shoulder problem! Still, I got some area cleared and seedlings screaming to go into the ground planted. Some apparently much too early e.g. tomatoes, but they've survived; in fact, practically all survived so now I have two rows of over-crowded acid-free and mini toms, but I'm loathed to take any out. Peppers, on the other hand, I sowed twice to no avail, so I shall try a third time. 
In September garden work was a soothing antidote to August, and I was genuinely thankful. The title of this post refers to the change in my mood from my end-of-August draft to mid-September draft, when I was singing praise to Mother Nature. But came October and my body was hurting all over and all the time. I longed to return to the Great Indoors, the big loom in particular. Almost on a whim, we went away to Golden Bay not two hours away for five days in late October, (the first time we left the Nelson City limits since January 2021, no restrictions or anything, just the way we live now,) which was soul-cleansing.
Yesterday was the first summer day with too-bright lights and sharp, itchy sun; it'll be pretty much thus until around April, and we're told it's going to be a hot summer, but I'm still about halfway done with the veg garden alone, so more Sisyphean work for me.

I am more of a flower gardener, so this veg garden thing feels so high maintenance. But food prices remain high, in addition to shortage/absence of certain veggies due to weather events, and more immediately, so much veg now comes in plastic packaging, I do feel virtuous growing my own. I like the idea of being able to pick as many/few as we need for each meal. Just quietly between us, I wished Ben would take more interest in the garden, but he's been so completely disengaged in the last few years; although with some coaxing/begging, he will help me with the big/heavy stuff.
* * * * *

This "more gardening" has been part of my effort to become a more self-contained, contented old person, gardening being one of the things old folks are supposed to love. I want to be a happier old person, not obsessed about constantly being informed, not having to form/express opinions, being a more pleasant, satisfied soul. You know. 
To that end, from time to time I visualize being such an old person, but in those visualization, there is never joint pains; the work is more rewarding; weeds are much slower to return; and somehow bird/cat damages are kept to a minimum. In real life, I have never caught up with the garden work in most of the 27 years in this house; for the next four months no matter how much hours I put in, the place will always look unkept; and the work gets harder on the old body. Grumble, grumble.

At times I also worry about hypothetical circumstances where we must suddenly move out of this house because of health reasons. This house with many steps on a steep hill is not for the frail. When we bought it in our mid-30s, we joked we hated finding/buying a house so much one of us would move out in a wooden box; but now it's becoming clear if we're lucky enough to live a long and relatively healthy life, we will probably move into a house on a flat section, if not an age-care facility, at some point. And when the time comes, never mind the nightmare of all the stuff we own, how much will it cost to hire someone to make sense of all this outside mess? Oh, this has kept me awake many, many nights. Then I dream of spontaneous combustion and try to go back to sleep.

* * * * *

Lest you think I'm all grumpy and depressed, that's just part of the time. Some days I have enjoyed showing off small sections my winter/spring garden. Before the weeds came back with vengeance. :-D Here are some. 
Oh, I also killed our favorite lime tree by overenthusiastically getting rid of mold on the deck about a meter away. Since late October, this has been a 30cm stick out of the ground. On the other hand, mold returns when it rains. 



It's Just One Thing After Another

You might think I live carelessly, and I don't blame you if you do. I wonder about it myself. 
I damaged my eyeglasses; I went outside and got two night's worth of firewood as I usually do, came inside and opened the wood burner to feed a couple, and the sudden temperature change did something to the layers of the lenses. The world has been blurred for the couple of weeks; it's a little like how movies and music films portray psychedelia, especially from the 60s, if you know what those look like. First time in 50 years of glasses and 26 years in this house and wood burner. I tried some of the old pairs in the meantime, but the blurred new ones (one year old) fits best, and the trusted optometrist said I could keep wearing them, so here I am, popping paracetamols like candy. (Not really, just two a day.) 
I think my eyes and brain are on overdrive trying to cope with this new... psychedelic world. I can do things in the kitchen, but slower, and I have to take breaks to close my eyes often. I try an older pair now and then, but that's probably making things worse. I've tried to read up on tied (unit) weaves, but quickly ran out of patience the first couple of times. I haven't tried sample weaving, but I can't cope with the idea of handling 60/2 cottons. I haven't ventured out to weed yet, but if all I need to settle myself down in one place, look down and pull, I can manage, couldn't I? Pruning trees are out of question, as are tasks I have to look both far and near in quick succession. At the very least, I should get off the computer, but I haven't always managed that.

Life seems just one thing after another. The lenses come from China, and before Covid they took a couple of weeks to arrive, but this last pair didn't arrive and optometrist re-ordered either the lenses or frames from the US, and I had to wait two months. If your eyes are so bad you're legally blind without glasses in some jurisdictions, (yup, that's me,) that's a long time, and I feel entitled to be a little melodramatic. 

At the start of last week, for three days I had pretty bad hay fever symptoms, but it's been cold for a few days and it stopped, for now. I'm feeling terribly difficult to be happy or enthusiastic or not-that-old, folks. Do send me some good thoughts!


Another Loom Update

I posted almost exactly this on my FB page on Saturday:

"With the warp on the big loom currently not under tension, we threw an old bed sheet over it and continued our investigation. Ben first checked every connection beyond the foot pedal, and found nothing clogging the tubes and joints. He them bypassed the shaft-dropping piston, and the shafts lifted as usual but dropped with a big thump. I could have easily finished weaving the warp that way, but not satisfied, he took off the offending piston, and pumped it manually half a dozen times, loosened and tightened every screw on it, and voila, the air stopped leaking. 
"We don't know how it became clogged in the first place, and we don't know if this is a long-term fix, but it's back to normal for now, confirming our hunch the problem was something akin to my joints - move it a few times and it'll go back to "normal" operation.

"I admit, we'll be holding our breaths. There were a few things that happened in the 21 years we've had this loom, most/all of which I'd forgotten since Ben usually fixed them in a minute or an hour. He had fun learning about how each part operates in more detail, the food pedal in particular. But if it happens again, it's manual pumping first, then to have the piston serviced or replaced. Stay tuned! (He got a bottle of Highland Park 12 year old out of the operation.)"
So you'd think I'm jumping up and down with joy, sampling my heart out, but not just yet. Thinking about and creating sample drafts, (many of which I hope will be good enough to use in proper pieces later,) is taking a very long time, even though they were never a big deal on the table loom. I'm relearning the logic of what I did more instinctively/visually before. The one good thing I discovered is, I can use an "active pen" on Fiberworks with this laptop, (one of those pens you touch the screen with,) which speeds up the filling of the squares so much. (Undoing/deleting a square still has to be done the old way, though. :-D) Here's an example: 
None of the colors are accurate, as is the threading, (because both were done randomly,) and the thickness of green pattern weft is wrong. But I am entering every pattern shed by said spiffy pen, line by line. No wonder, eh.
I'm still working on the post about what I mean by tied weave, a little different from the normal tied weaves as far as I understand, but the tied weave jargon is making it confusing, and I keep changing the way I explain things. But I promise you, it is coming, if you are interested. So... more to come.


Loom Update

No, still not about tied weaves, but about the loom. But it's not all bad. 
In all we went to the air compressor (and other industrial machines) shop four time over two and a half weeks. I spoke with the specialist engineer, who told me there was clogging somewhere beyond the foot pedal, i.e. with the mechanism controlling the lift/drop of the shafts, and air traveled back to the pedal looking for an outlet. Ben spent some hours cleaning, plodding, blowing into, etc. He replaced the pressure gauge, "serviced" the compressor, (this was also done by the pro 13 months ago,) got rid of condensation in the tank big time, and confirmed there was no problem from the compressor to the foot pedal. There is still a dodgy valve where tank connects to the hose(?), but the latter is permanently, not requiring valve action, so we left it as is. 
Ben then determined the problem is somewhere around the "down/drop" piston, but he couldn't access it easily with the warp already on, so we shall investigate after I weave this warp.   

The air appears to leaks at a similar rate to when the leak was first discovered, but we've increased the pressure, so the shafts lift marginally faster, (super slowly for a functioning loom at the best of times), but drops slowly enough I could almost put the kettle on between picks. I'm not 100% if all the required shafts lift all the time, either. If I step on the pedal before all the shafts have completely dropped, sometimes the same/previous shafts go up, sometimes the next, so I'm keeping an eye on the shafts as much as on the web as I weave, which isn't too bad with the somewhat predictable tied weave, in comparison to say a fussy twill. As well, this project requires carefully thinking of weft colors at every step, so compared to a swish-swish one-shuttle weave, the speed is annoying.
Earlier in the week I reached the high/low point of hair-pulling agitation. Opportunely Ben found a bunch of card stock about to be discarded at work, so I started making more paper bobbins. I prefer gray, but these are white, and slightly stiffer than my usual, so they're harder on the fingers, but good distraction. Then I found more recyclable material at home, tabbed dividers in old ring binders; at this rate I'll never run out of paper bobbins, but I do go through them quickly, including winding off unused wefts after a project, so... bring it!
I also wound some pattern wefts, in the blue-green/green/yel-green/yellow/orange/red range. I'm not ignoring the purples/blues, but this is enough to start sampling and maybe one piece. Because this is the first time I'm weaving irregular tied weave on the big loom, I want to experiment with a broad range of issues/possibilities, so I'm sampling to my heart's content, and if the loom proves too dodgy, I'm OK if I don't get a proper piece off of this warp. 
I was winding the bobbins upstairs because that's where my cotton cones are, fuming about the state of the loom. Then I noticed there is a tied-weave warp ready to be woven at any time not too far from me. I am ever so one-track-minded.
With the loom ready, I needed some tabby wefts. (I rewound all the unused ones on the new white bobbins, so I see right away if something is a 2/60 tabby weft, not 2/20 pattern. The thread sizes are not hard to distinguish, but this way it's instant.) Lacking in some darker/saturated wefts, I wound a few more. 
And this is the start of sample, this one with white pattern weft to map where/how the pattern wefts. I threaded in undulating twill on shafts 6-16 for the most part, but there is a small section of network twill towards the right. Because the pattern wefts are threaded at random, this is how I learn/see for the first time where they sit. The slight color change reflects the change in the tabby weft, except the very last bit where I ran out of white and used a yellow pattern weft. The next portion will be woven with a black pattern weft, in a similar fashion, for more mapping. 
I am weaving standing up on a footstool Ben built me long ago for my office chair. The height happened to be perfect, but for weaving, I prefer wider so I can move around. The pedal needs lowering, but I can't tell how much. I like weaving standing up because I have a broader view of the web, and feel as though I can weave wider pieces more comfortably. I can also see exactly which shafts are up. With the current setup, however, I'm not "walking" the treadling/pedaling, and hope to remedy it when Ben works out the footstool and pedal height.

Alright, extra credit to observant readers who spotted the dent I sleyed 14 rather than the usual 7 ends.


Not Happening

On the whole, we've been having a settled, lovely autumn/winter conducive to cool-weather gardening, with occasional rain, (far fewer than forecast,) for weaving, interspersed with "I just can't be bothered" days. I finished threading the tied weave warp on June 2, finished sleying and sorting out the tension, etc., for sampling on June 7, but haven't started, because...
After 21 years of service, the air compressor setup is causing problems. At first it looked like air leak from where the compressor air enters the foot pedal, *blue cord,) so we remedied that; and because the old ones were plastic, replaced plugs for the unused holes with spiffy new metal ones. But it still leaked, so we left the pedal at the specialist, who rang to say there's nothing wrong with the pedal itself but something-something is leaking? causing pressure to build up inside the pedal, causing it to leak. Wha??
The logic didn't make sense to Ben, either, so the ideal scenario is for him to talk to this Malcolm guy, but Ben's been super busy at work and we've been able to work on my problem about once a week, and Malcolm works part time. Incidentally, Ben found the pressure meter and a valve on the compressor plug have died as well, so those have been/will be replaced. It'd be hilarious?? if this valve business solves the whole leak problem,  but I'm not counting on it... It's starting to get depressing, two weeks of putting sampling on hold while we rush to the specialist to get unsatisfactory results; we're heading there for the third time soon. 
We were/are scheduled to have rain off and on all week, so I anticipated a happy, colorful week. I haven't had peace of mind to even think of weft colors or drafts, but that's on me.
I was going to write about what kind of a modified tied weave I'm going to use on this project, but this post is now long enough, so I'll stop here. I'll start a new one about the weave structure.



Why Don't I Draw? / On Color-Experiment-Art-Therapy

I've been gazing at the works of Spanish artist Jesus Cisneros several times a day, because I am yearning to draw little whimsical sketches, a little every day, and color them in, but I have that usual mental block when it comes to drawing. Last year's Bard drawing worked because I was only "copying" the same painting. A few years ago, before I embarked on Will, I had a Matisse and a Modigliani portraits phase, which I enjoyed very much; I've thought of revisiting Matisse, but haven't actually done any. 
I wish I could draw freely subjects I like: domestic scenes, interiors, kitchen scenes, or kitchen/weaving/sawing/art tools and supplies, or cakes and pastries and tea cups on tables. It's not that I've never tried - I had a capsicum-drawing phase late last century, but I was never happy with them so it didn't last. The funny thing is, and now I know this painfully well, that some of the "baddest" drawings are what I like best later, while "OK" ones often turn out boring. So I'll be happier if I did a bunch of bad drawing now, to perhaps color them in later and self-congratulate, or cut them in shapes to paste, or scan/copy and manipulate. Still, long evenings are lovely; at least I have been indulging in befriending watercolor and brushes.

The original plan was to make collage fodder for my journal (and other) swaps. It so happens I've been out in the garden most days, and by the time I finish dinner I'm exhausted; these "no thinking" stuff on paper also turned out to be an antidote, stopping the incessant replay of "tomorrow's garden jobs" at all hours. 
Because I'm working under artificial light, colors look duller while I work, and I'm surprised/shocked how bright and saturated some look the next morning. Gradually "intention" started to creep in. Most sheets, I work over two nights, wash, and/or majority of elements going in the first night, and editing the second. I posted a couple to the FB journal swap group page, and friends' comments steer me in different directions. Here are some examples from the last ten days. 
I needed saturated but nuanced yellow sheets. This was #3, where I incorporated more yellow greens and oranges; originally they were to be covered by yellows, leaving just nuances rather than the original colors, but I liked the orange bloom so much I stopped working.
Then I concentrated on the bloom, and made this very pale sheet. I knew this would come handy in collage, but I felt ambivalent about its done-ness.
After several yellow-all-over sheets, I decided to "diversify" one night. Truth be told, I was running out of some yellows, oranges and greens, so I used some colors I have plenty of, ergo the pink.
The top sheet I made up one evening, and worked on some more the second. The bottom sheet is the same as the bottom sheet in the previous picture, with additional colors. The first layer on this sheet was so very saturated I had to add new colors rather dry and lightly, or they became mixed with the bottom layers almost instantly. Another good swap friend Tess commented it looked "shiney", which in turn made me think about saturation.
So the next two evenings I thought about saturation. The first sheet, you can see I tried layers, so even in the too-muchness, there are nice nuances. The bottom one, I don't know what I was thinking, really. I associate this degree of saturation with circuses and carnivals, totally not to what I intended to make, but they will work cut up and pasted in journals, I think. But all was not lost.
Here are some nice layers from the top sheet, worked over two or perhaps three nights.
The bottom sheet starting to look so loud, I made an attempt at some bloom. But the most surprising was the top right kite-shape; although with a mix of good colors, it looked totally blurred and unfocused, and I revisited over and over to see how I could improve it, or if it was better left with "less". In the end, I had a  dark green in my brush hovering over the entire sheet looking for nice home, and inside the kite was the only "vacancy" I found. And I'm so glad I did, because it finally brought a visual focus, a tightness to the whole shape. Phew! 
Sorry this one is blurred, but it best represents how watery the latest attempt is. Exhausted by the two  loud piece, I've returned to layers and layers of wash plus some colors, on top of the bloom sheet, second from the top picture. This is after one or two nights, and probably unfinished, but some show breathtaking delicacy I hesitate to ruin. I may revisit, I may "touch up" some, I may leave them as they are, in which case I'll show you up close later. But a good contemplation on less vs more, and the opposite of what happened to the kite shape above. I'll start a new sheet, and just stare and stare at this while I work on that.  
In journal swaps, we are encouraged to, and most folks enthusiastically, decorate the envelopes, too. I've been a slackest member in that regard, so I brought out my lino and woodblock and printed out a bunch of envelopes. My main goal was to improve my inking and print skills. The beauty of these swaps, though, is if I print badly, (or even well,) I can add elements so the (bad) print job recedes into the background. (Also at the bottom are some of the yellow collage material.)
I particularly liked the red print on red paper, a new swap with one of my steadiest swap mate Fran, on the subject of Covid/Lockdown. Of the two designs, I like the top one better, although even for me they are so similar I have to look for the fish or the fin in the middle to see which is which. 
I still want to draw simple scenes/things, but for now I'm happy with these experiments; I even sense there may be a couple of new woodcuts/linos coming up. And with prints, it's the carving I enjoy, so I'm not worried if they turn out to be more of the same.

I also think I'm OK to thread the big loom, although still not sure about the tiny camping/fishing seat; I'm thinking of kneeling on inflatable rubber cushions, (think Swiss balls, but in the size/shape of cushions.) I can't stop visualizing my weaving that warp!  I just have to rethink the time I spend cooking, weeding and weaving.