Friday, March 31, 2023

The Way I Read (Some) Books

Having friends who think deeply is a gift; that I have some with knowledge of not just literature but psychology, sociology and the business surrounding books is an undeserved treasure, for which, (or whom?) I don't express appreciation often enough. I know in my head I should be careful not to exhaust them with my flippancy, but I can't shake Mom's motto she raised us with, either: it's rude to just sit and not take part, (which, strangely, my sister was allowed, but not me,) that we must all participate to the fullest extent to show appreciation of everyone's company.


The other day I inadvertently shared something I've never shared with anyone, ever. We were talking about the benefits of good books, their ability to make us "think", but that thinking manifested in different ways to different people, at different times, with different books. And I blurted out, "I insert myself into the book."
I'm talking about fiction. But not all fiction. And sometimes I don't get to choose. I am an extra: an apprentice fetching a pail of water; one of the many old ladies squeezing fruits while gossiping at the market; a kitchen maid; even a weaver emerging from the dark house, shielding my eyes from the afternoon sun. I am a daughter, a spinster, a widow, but usually an invisible someone who can move around unnoticed within a limited area. And I see, and eavesdrop! Too often I think the central characters are risking great danger and being silly, except, heavens, if they ever listened to me, there will be no story, so it's a good thing I don't have the chance to go anywhere near the center of the story. But the spaces and situations I occupy or encounter by chance are vivid. They are the "other side" of the story.  

I love to read historical fiction and magical-realism, especially for young adult. Sometimes while I'm reading, I see me in the crowd; other times I create a wee backstory, and I slip into the role. Try as I may, it's not up to me to know which books I can get into, and I sure never went anywhere near Harry Potter because the magnitude, and the speed, of Rowling's imagination was more than I could handle. Discworld, on the other hand, I'm so there, all over, everywhere, loitering, being one of the many in the noisy, roudy crowd.

And here's where it gets a little weird. I am in Vincent van Gogh's biographies, too, but only in the post-Paris years. I'm a rank amateur drawer/painter, a working class female of indeterminate age. I have a tiny raggedy notebook I made myself, maybe a feather or reed and some ink, maybe a stick or charcoal I picked up from the fire, and I sometimes like to watch that strange Dutchman paint outdoors. I've never spoken to him, because I'm afraid of him; I can't tell when he's drunk, and he smells bad. Sometimes I look in the same direction as the Dutchman, and try to draw something, in secret, but he never notices me. Sometimes I stand some distance away and watch him, painting flowers and haystacks and stars and Montmajour, so quickly, with so many colors, like he can't stop the pictures sputtering out of his hands.  

Sometimes there are other men watching him; they think they are so cleaver hiding behind a tree, scribbling in notebooks, though some boldly walk back and forth behind the painter. They never notice me, and the Dutchman never pays any attention. I heard someone gossiping these men are called "biographers", and in years to come, they all make up their own stories about the Dutchman and make more money than the painter ever did from his paintings.

Ah, to be alive in this world!

Thursday, March 30, 2023

A Little More on Stephen's Farewell Scarf

This is the second, longer, piece on this monochromatic warp.  

I had never "seen" the thickness of anything I wove in cashmere until earlier this week when it hung on the back of a chair, and I glanced at it from the other end of the hallway while hunting for a suitable box. I should have taken a picture of it instead of just sighing loudly, but it was a sight to behold. In the end it went inside a beat up computer part (?) box Ben had, suitable to house a piece for his restructured-out, (don't get me started on this,) boss. I now realize how yarn-hungry the current projects are; on the third piece I chose a big ball and a particularly heavy cone, and still I'm going to be able to manage just about 170-180cm, using up both. This will be a big issue if I ever decide to weave to sell clasped weft pieces.

After I washed it and it finished up much nicer than I anticipated, (because that's usually my primary and only concern,) I started to worry if I chose this look/technique for my own creative ego rather than suitability/taste of the intended. Ben had said he wore conservative colors and always had a suit jacket. I wanted to make something special. So though the colors were conservative, but the overall look? Hardly.  
Ben brought it to work yesterday and gave it to the boss during morning tea, and texted me that it was well-received. There was some mention of the piece's versatility in casual and formal/work situations, for which I was glad because it wasn't just in my imagination it could go "outdoorsy or opera," the two ends of the spectrum of fanciness in my mind. OK, opera in NZ, where women don't wear lovely silk gowns. I've no doubt it also helped yesterday was the first cold day of the season. 
I'm having similar doubts about the current, third piece's colors, too. This is unusual as I was always pretty confident my giftees would like my pieces as long as I "got it right."I know. It's me, me, me. I'm not sure if this emerging doubt relates to my decreasing confidence in technique, aging, or something else.  
Clasped weft as a technique has pitfalls, and at least one of the biggie I know is built into the fact I use twill. I'm trying to make notes on all of them before I can decide how to improve/eradicate, or ignore; I'll write about them in future. For now I'm trying to concentrate on the third piece, and possibly another, short piece after that. 
The box was snug, and trying to fold the scarf as few times as possible, it turned out looking wrinkly all over, but it's a solid piece; I can be happy about that.

EDIT: the box actually contained car parts, says Ben. Even better, Stephen loves cars so much, he even brought his father's MGB GT from England. But I must add, it was a clean one, no oil stains or the like, just badly bashed in three corners.

Monday, March 27, 2023

Monochromatic Cashmere Warp Piece Two

Ben chose the second set of wefts, a blue-white and the same dark gray. I decided not to rethread because of time constraints; also because I wasn't confident if rethreading will necessarily result in better design/texture, and I didn't want to kick myself thinking I ruined it again. 
I didn't know this at the start, but apparently I wanted to create bigger shapes. It's much easier to do fussy zig-zag lines, while patience, dexterity and the ability to predict shapes/lines, are needed to make bigger shapes. Restricting myself to weaving 20-30cm a day, (which felt like a terribly bad use of time,) was a big factor in giving me headspace and practice smoother lines/bigger shapes.  

So I don't jinx myself, I started treadling 2-3-4-5, then changed direction twice, so a great majority of the piece was woven with this treadling. (And I'm still not sure why this is easier after all the years of preferring 5-4-3-2, but never mind, it works, I'll stick with it.)

I still don't have the ability to foresee where the line between the dark and light wefts go, and many, many times, I moved them, opening the same shed twice, thrice, or more adjusting. I never understood how changes in angle, (how far left/right the intersection of the two wefts are in relation to the previous pick,) will reflect in the longer curve of the line, so sometimes the move was too acute where I wanted more gentler curves, while other times the angle was too obtuse, or even not moving at all. I tried drawing lines on paper to see if I could understand better, but it didn't help much. I'm going to do some more drawing on graph paper, but also, I might start drawing cartoons, not for whole scarves but in sections where I want to reuse the shapes. For e.g. I liked this section, which looks like Casper and his unfriendly cohorts, or sharks' fins.
For variety, I did include some zigzags.
Towards the end, however, I was adamant I was going to tame the smooth lines, making the last quarter (bottom) boring in my eyes. Except... I got a cute hippo as a result. I know, now you can't unsee him, either, can you? Anyhoo...
First piece, right, washed/agitated again. Second piece, left, washed/agitated vigorously. Color sample, also washed/agitated a second time. Though both still wet, the texture is fluffier than the first piece after one wash, although still nowhere near the initial sample. White weft of the second piece is striking, but the light mid-gray of the first is nuanced and attractive. 
There is one problem, also, of weaving with clasped wefts in twills, which I learned when I wove in this style a few years back, but I haven't considered it in any depth. I'll show you in the post discussing the next piece. 
I got 213cm on the loom this time; 205cm in above pic, 204.5cm at completion. Just in time for Farewell Do on Wednesday.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Monochromatic Cashmere Warp Preamble and Piece One

Early this year I discovered I might need a farewell gift in march, and the potential giftee being a conservative/casual English dresser, I thought monochromatic cashmere scarf would be nice. To make it a little special, I had clasped weft in mind. And to make the fabric thicker and the weaving faster, I planned to weave in the "return trip" clasping, (I just made that up - is there a proper name for it?) i.e. two wefts come in from respective selvedges, are clasped somewhere in the shed, and return to their selvedges of origin, and beaten; i.e. two-weft thickness in each pick. 

I put on a monochrome warp I made a while back. It was too narrow so I added more black at the right; in my mind this ruined the delicate original intent, a mostly white and two pale grays with just enough black to keep the piece from floating away. Never mind, the purpose is a man's not-short (180-210cm) piece, and upon consulting some of Ben's scarves and the man himself, Ben and not the intended, 18-20cm-ish width was more desirable than 15cm-ish that was the original plan for the warp.

I threaded in a make-it-up-as-I-go undulating twill and sampled, but did not like the parts where two and three ends were threaded in the same shaft in succession, e.g. 1-2-2-3-3-4-4-4-3-3, so I rethreaded, varying these to, for e.g. 1-2-2-3-4-4 or 1-2-3-3-4-1-2-2-3-4, etc. I also left only one set of three ends in one shaft. In retrospect I'm not sure if this mattered; long floats fluff up wonderfully, and it might have been nicer to leave them, so there remains a possibility of rerethreading. 
For Piece One I used my favorite weft combination in the sample; the pale gray is so pale I had a hard time distinguishing it from white while in a ball or weaving. Soon realized I may not have enough of it to weave 180-210cm, and I tried to make it go the distance, using very little in some parts. I was ready to make this a short, 150cm piece, but in the end it grew to just 179cm off the loom. (I'm amazed how much darker the pale weft looks in the finished piece.)
I found the weaving labour-intensive, and on Day One, managed only 18cm. Days Two and Three I wove twice that much, which gave me all kinds of muscle aches, but worse, mental fatigue. On Day 3 I kept making treadling mistakes, (it's only 5-4-3-2; how could I go wrong?,) some of which I didn't see right away. In once instance I even liked the mistake and decided to leave it in, but now I'm not sure. I wove in that weird autodrive I mentioned in the last post. Around the middle of the piece, I changed the treadling to 2-3-4-5, creating a diamond shape; I was going to do this a few times, but since I made so few mistakes treadling in this order, I didn't dare change it back. This is peculiar, considering I've always woven one-directional twills 5-4-3-2 as long as I had this loom.
Days 4 and 5, it was better as I wove about 20cm each day. With both the body and mind in better condition, I felt nimble and wove more precisely. On Day 4, my design brain was working well, so I was making more interesting patterns. I also caught nearly half a dozen treadling mistakes, but I saw them and was able to fix them straight away. On Day 5, the mind-body synchronization was good again, but not so much the design brain, so I felt less exuberant, but thankfully not stressed. So the lesson here was, she shouldn't persevere. Which doesn't really go well with my temperament, but I'm sticking to it for the time being because it's a lot better than mending afterwards.
I dwell on mind-body synchronization, because I know this relates to aging, especially re. my mind, although I really prefer the word "senility" because that rings truer to me. Muscle fatigue from weaving, I have experienced for some years, (though hardly every time I weave,) and to some degree weaving consistently improves the situation, especially when weaving similar techniques on the same loom. It's purely a muscle/fitness thing. But the mental fatigue is new; it's not just being tired or bored and not wanting to think/write about it, but more like weaving and other thoughts wiped out cleanly on a chalk or white board! With my mother's lucidity fluctuating, (it's definitely weird more often, but she hides them so well, Sister and I can't quite pin down where she is at any given time, but only in comparison to other recent occasion.) I observe myself in the same psedo-objective eye, and can spot lucidity varying, the most annoying when having to think of how to do things I usually do automatically.

Lordy, I feel old.

This piece also became an experiment in the shapes/lines/motif, and instead of going for one or another kind of a look, I went for maximum variety. This "research" is on-going, so I'll write about it when I finish the warp, with better pics of the pieces.
Note to self: 179cm off the loom, 172cm after resting, and 166.5cm washed. Weaving width is 20cm; washed, 18.5cm. Shrinkage 93% and 92% respectively.

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Two Blocks on Four Shafts that Weren't - Or Were They?

I was going to delete this post/draft as the outcome from this warp was disappointing, but in my continuing interest in, urrr... interesting four-shaft weaving, (if nothing else, I like weaving on my four-shaft jack,) I decided to keep it.. 
* * * * *   

This is the Nth piece in what was my for-Ukraine phase on the four-shaft loom. I got tired of Dornick, so I looked up Davison, and found two twill blocks on four shafts, ....., something I never thought about, and modified it to to make the pattern appear bolder.
It looked great on paper, or screen; Mom was impressed she could clearly see the pattern over not-exactly-clear Line App connection. 
In reality, it's not that the blocks are not there, but it's not as bold as I imagined, although in this pic, I like it better than in real life. After considering what I was happy to do, I settled on resleying and changing the treadling, rather than re-threading. In addition to the pattern not appearing clearly, my objection was the texture was akin to weaving done in thicker yarns in looser sett.
So this was the plan as seen on screen. After resleying from 18EPI to 20, I didn't sample but just started weaving. The weft is 2/24 mill-end merino in taupe, plied *3. It was still skinny and I couldn't see the pattern/mistakes while weaving, (so weird the "stripe" appears in the pic,) and this warp/weft combination turned out sticky. I could weave at most 25cm/day. Ben thought it was "plain", but more my style; I understood to mean it's an all-over pattern without a visual focus. 
Then I discovered a treadling mistake, unwove, tried to fix it, only to find out it wasn't a mistake??? So I wove on, but it still looked like a mistake, and tried to go back but the warp was so frayed it was impossible to mend. This was in September, and I thought to leave it for the time being, and then I did the cottolin warps, and... didn't get back to this until February!
By this time the weaving had become so onerous, I decided to cut it off and weave with another weft, a combination of two mill-end merino in navy and one variegated merino (??) a then-regular vendor sent it to me by mistake instead of my usual stuff. Weaving this was faster and I could see a little more of the pattern, but by this time reserve joy depleted, I was in a rush to finish. And this piece ended up not at all as soft and drapey after weft-finish as I had imagined. Also when on the loom I could not see the "stripes" that would have appeared because of the threading; these came to the fore only after washing/drying.
Never mind, at least it's in the shape of a big scarf. 

Still, the original taupe fabric had an unimaginably lovely, heavy-silk-like drape, so I decided to weave the rest of the warp to make warp end fabric, which turned out to be a bigger disaster. (And for once, I'm not exaggerating.) Also, no matter how gently I washed these, the weft turned fuzzy worn by the time they were drying. I like the taupe color, and I have tons of small mill-end cones, so I must experiment more to preserve the drape of this yearn in the finished piece. 

* * * * * 

As I mentioned, this warp was slow weaving, and I was very tired. Some days I was on what I can only describe as autodrive, but I wasn't sure if it was my body, head, or both. In the past, in washing my weaving I've been taken aback at the inconsistency in my beating, so much so that at times I wonder if I used yarns from a different cone/dye lot by mistake. Often this happens on Ashford table looms, so I blamed it on the short distance between the Shaft 1 and the breast beam, where I can see the cloth already woven to determine the beat of that particular cloth. So is it me, and not the loom? Looking back I can also recall at least two staggeringly inconsistently beaten pieces on the 16-shaft to my utter disappointment; one was intended as a present to a dear friend, another had silk weft and a fabulous hand. (I kept the latter.)

While weaving the warp end fabric with the skinny taupe weft, I notice one time the beat was much too tight, and the resultant fabric stiff on the loom. But as if in those fables where folks cannot stop dancing, my body refused to change the MO, and I kept beating hard. I thought a break may help, so I wound some cashmere wefts on the bobbin for the next project, and returned to weaving. This time the beat was so soft it was almost lacy on the loom. At this point it became not weaving, but the battle of the mind and the body, "me" reduced to a spectator. So weird.

I can recall once or twice in the past when I'm really tired, possibly after having been under the weather for a wee while, when the act of weaving felt just wrong. It wasn't good to persevere, unless I was working on a sample/experimentation, or a goofing-off project. I had made a mental note of it then, but had forgotten because I guess it'd been a while since I last persevered.
The only good things to come out of the body-snatched day was, this old wool warp and the skinny taupe weft combination produces the best drape woven in the super gappy, softly beaten way. Lordy, I even see the pattern! 

* * * * * 

I did enjoy the May-September mad weaving, though; I realized if I tried, to some degree, I can still weave one after another in quick succession. I never found/researched further how I could send these to Ukraine, and it's spring there now. But Esther, who always has calm, sensible answers, thought I should donate them to Women's Refuge where they will be handed to women (and children) directly, instead of Salvation Army, (usually my preferred charity,) where they will be sold to raise funds. With the cooler season coming up, this is a good idea, so I'll be contacting them in April/May, I think.