Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Implementing 8 shafts ...

So my new little 8-shaft loom will now be utilized to it's fullest. Sunday, I wound a warp for a set of kitchen towels. Monday, I sleyed the reed, and today I started threading the heddles. These towels will be woven in what's called a 2-block broken twill, which means the weave structure is broken twill, but since I have 8 shafts I can create 2 separate blocks of twill which will enhance the intricacy of the overall pattern.

Twill. I just love that name--as I do many weaving terms. It means that instead of having a weft thread pass under one warp thread, then over one warp thread as in "plain" weave: over, under, over, under, ... the weft thread passes under 2 or more weft threads at once, and over 1 or more. A very common twill structure is 2 over, 1 under. It creates a visual diagonal rib in the cloth because the over/under is offset at the edge of the cloth (the selvedge). If the offset is moved out of linear order prematurely, the solid diagonal rib is lost and the twill is "broken". It's still twill, but the pattern is scattered instead of on a linear diagonal.

Here is a good example of twill:

And here is an example of "broken" twill:

There are several ways of "breaking" twill. The above is just one example.

Here's my warp after I finished sleying the reed. White, magenta, blue. Because I'm having 2 blocks, the cloth will end up with squares of color combinations: white/magenta, magenta/blue, white/blue, magenta/white, in addition to the 3 solid colors. Very exciting!

My visitors ...

The 2 boys arrived on a Tuesday afternoon, about an hour and half late due to an accident in CT which held up the bus. Poor kids. Myself, I was held up 15 minutes just north of Concord due to an accident. One of the head coordinators was several minutes late because she, too, had been held up by and accident!! A friend from Massachusetts met up with us, and we all went out for dinner before heading our respective ways.

It was a really interesting and exciting experience. It took about 24 hours for the three of us to relax and start being ourselves. The day after their arrival, we hiked over 2 miles to a gorge and waterfall in Franconia Notch, then somewhat democratically decided to do Chinese for lunch. It was a great hike, I do love walking in the woods. Many wild plants had ID tags on them and it was super interesting to learn their names. The falls and gorge themselves are an awesome spectacle (The Flume Gorge). After lunch, there was a very definite change in our relationship; a turning point. It was fun to be relaxed and know that the 9 days would probably work out just fine.

I learned about myself as well as about their lives. It helped me realize what it might have been like to have children, and what type of parent I might have been (I hope).

I made a few mistakes up front, but you know, live and learn... we went to a candy store after lunch (a big one--Chutters) and came to realize that I would not have been amiss to assign a quota for each of us, say .25 to .5 lb of candy, before entering the candy store. However, I was pretty impressed with their restraint and it ended up a good experience. Our stop at Walmart on the way home to get some videos was a close call--perhaps because they'd had time to absorb some sugar. They were full of energy and talking almost incessantly (Thank god! That really pleased me, and helped me to relax too.) and proceeded to fill our cart with movie after movie! Whoa! I now wish I'd set the limit before we went in, say, 2 good movies and if we need more we'll come back. So I had to find a way to say that we couldn't get as many movies as they were finding... and they were finding a goodly number of them! Sets of movies no less! Ditto the board games. (But I'm glad to have the games, nice when company comes over.)

We got home, they played cards and monopoly while I checked the situation at work and put out some fires. It was nice to see them getting along well with each other.

We met up with a couple friends of mine from Canada at Polly's Pancake Parlor in Sugar Hill (great pleasure to see you both again, jak), then we drove over to Mt. Washington and down Crawford Notch. Absolutely breathtaking scenery there!!

We spent time at beautiful Wellington Beach on Newfound Lake, only 20 minutes from my house. They had a blast, spending almost the whole of our 4 hours there in the water. I brought some spinning with me, but didn't get much done because there was a strong breeze. I'm not complaining about the breeze. Oh no. It was very warm and humid that day and night. I stopped and bought some oscillating fans on the way home.

One afternoon someone left the front screen door open, and at about 1 a.m. one of the boys came downstairs to say there were several flies in his room. Yup. Flies, moths, and others. So between the two rooms, an hour went by while I got rid of the bugs! It was then about 2 a.m. so I went out to catch more of the Perseids meteor shower and took in 3 or 4, big, bright, and beautiful shooting stars. So it was worth being up. The other bonus was finding a big barred owl perched on my garden arbor, surveying the lawn. I wanted to take a picture, but my camera was in the car and I knew if I moved, it would fly away. I don't think I got to sleep til about 5 a.m.!

There were some challenges for me, and I'm glad there were. To be sure, some things would have been less--shall we say delicate--had they been my own children, but nothing unmanageable. I took the advice of a friend: I was here to spoil them like their grandparents, and then send them back home to their parents. :)

I was occasionally proud of being able to juggle 3 or 4 things at once, attending to their needs and requests, and making sure they were having a real vacation.

One evening while I was in the kitchen they helped themselves to my antique sewing machine--it was a good opportunity to start talking about sewing. So the next day we went to the quilt shop and bought fabric. I told them I'd teach them how to sew an infinity scarf, but one of them was bent on making a cape. A cape! I told him about the work involved in tailoring a cape--we most likely didn't have enough time to make one. He really wanted to make a cape, so I said if he had a plan for one, he should go for it, but I might be of minimal help. He did it! (And wore it constantly afterwards: Around the house, and out on our excursions!) It was very creative. The living room looked like a fabric tornado had hit it that evening. The fabric was everywhere! They both really enjoyed cutting and creating and sewing. I wish these arts were taught to boys more, and I wish, wish, wish, the stigma attached to men doing supposedly "women's work" would go away. Everyone would be so much happier, and I think healthier if they were allowed to create without all these gender biases. Both were wearing their creations when they boarded the bus to depart.

I think the beach was probably their favorite outing. To be sure, Wellington State Beach on Newfound Lake is gorgeous. The Flume gorge and falls also scored high. That was a 2 mile hike; we also hiked around Quincy Bog which is about a mile, and we hiked up West Rattlesnake: A 2 mile hike. West Rattlesnake is not a tall summit, but the view of Squam Lake from there is fantastic (the lake where "On Golden Pond" was shot).

It was wonderful! We did many fun and exciting things together, and I'm pretty sure they enjoyed it. Both said they wanted to come back next year.

I am very happy I did this. On a scale of 1 to 5, I'd rate the experience a 5 in spite of a few minor challenges. I am happy I was able to do this. As a single, 59 y.o. gay man, I had some doubts it would even be possible. I found out this morning, after the bus was loaded but waiting on 2 more children, that I was not alone in my age bracket. One couple was in their 70s!

I'll definitely do it again.

Here are some pictures of our adventures. For privacy reasons, I am not including pictures of the boys.

Bonus picture: Me and my friends from Canada (jak, do advise if you'd rather not have this picture up here)

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Conclusions ...

There have been a number of conclusions recently. The table runner is done. The boys from NYC have gone home. Both big projects have come and gone. Both were wonderful experiences, both had their challenges (in a good way, of course), both were rewarding, and I hope I've grown from both.

I was able to weave while the boys were here, and I'm especially pleased the runner was finished during their stay so they could see the fruits of my efforts. The process definitely piqued the interest of one young man. You may recall the challenges I had setting up the warp: One bout ruined, and the discovery that I had not correctly calculated the number of heddles required (not to mention what that did to my estimated width). But the project was saved and the actual weaving went pretty smoothly--only one broken warp during the weave. Broken warps are no big deal and quite easy to accommodate, as long as there aren't a ton of them.

The final challenge on this project arose during the finishing stage. As I soaked it in a hot Eucalan bath, I noticed the red was starting to bleed! This thread was given me, and not knowing it's age or history it would have behooved me to test it for fastness beforehand. Live and learn! I drew it out of the water immediately to halt the bleeding process. The consequences are not bad, the bleeding did not get intense enough to make a mess. In fact, I rather like the result as it makes the piece look a little bit antiquated! Very pleased with his table scarf:

This morning--after much perusing of drafts, surfing of www, and thumbing through books--I decided on an 8-shaft project for my new loom. I will weave some kitchen towels in a 2 block, broken twill. Details soon.

Will report on the boy's 9-day visit in a separate post.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Progress ... and Happenings ...

I am making progress on the table runner. I forgot how good it feels to sit and throw the shuttle, beat the weft, and treddle the heddles. Weaving, like spinning (and knitting, and making quilts) is one of those essential life arts that, being entirely pragmatic and utilitarian, are at the same time very artistic and full of deep meaning. Such very wholesome arts; sad to think that not too many people get to indulge in them. The victory of commercialism over meaning. Sure, it takes longer to make something oneself, but that's entirely not the point. When one weaves a beautiful table scarf, or knits a gorgeous shawl, or pieces an intricate quilt, or spins a fine thread, one gains not solely the finished object. The soul is nourished, the deeper meaning of life--raison d'etre--is fulfilled. To create!

The table runner is coming along nicely. I'm happy with my choice of color, and 22 ends per inch was a good decision.

There is excitement in the air tonight! Tomorrow afternoon I will drive down to Concord to pick up 2 boys from NYC whom I will be hosting for 10 days on The Fresh Air Fund. I applied to be a host last summer, albeit it was late. I was visited, interviewed, vetted, and accepted. Even though it was late, they matched me to a young boy, but at the last minute--the day before the bus was due to leave New York--the mother cancelled. Alas, not meant to be. This year they matched me to two boys (12 and 13, unrelated to each other).

I am very much looking forward to showing them the beautiful natural surroundings here. The White Mountains will figure in our week of adventure, a climb up one of the less strenuous peaks, some hikes if they are up for it. If they are interested, I can teach them about several different crafts--not only those I enjoy, but those of my friends and acquaintances whose classes I have taken. We'll have a party Saturday evening (I hope the weather is good!). I'll drive them back to Concord on the 18th where the bus to NYC will be waiting for them.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

We have lift-off ...

After a number of challenges winding the warp and dressing the loom, my new overshot project is off the ground. Yippee!

It feels good to be throwing the shuttle again--honestly, it's been a while!

I think this is going to be just fine, with it's reduced center panel. Should make a lovely table scarf.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Musical happenings ...

July and early August brings us the NH Music Festival, an extraordinary event--and so close to home, which thrills me. I went to opening night this year. The deciding factor was Beethoven's Fifth Piano Concerto. If you have never heard this, do yourself a favor:

If nothing else, listen to the 2nd movement. Image yourself lying supine, floating around the heavens on a cloud... it starts at 21:10 in the video.

The evening was sheer pleasure. Opening night at the festival includes--gratuitous with ticket--wine and/or champagne, cheese, crackers, fruit--as you will. Pre-concert and during intermission. Very impressive. Before intermission, the orchestra played Handel and Haydn. Bliss. Beauty. Perfection.

I attended my second concert last Thursday: Brahm's Requiem, formally: Ein Deutsches Requiem. Oh my word. To begin with, Brahms is one of my favorite composers. One of the very first pieces I ever taught myself was his Lullaby. It was in a book of music we received from my Aunt Emma. I well remember sitting at the upright in the living room--with it's missing keytops and a few broken keys--but hey! It was better than nothing!!--learning how to play it. It sounded so fresh and beautiful and deep and meaningful. A fabulous, fabulous concert. Overwhelmingly powerful at times with the orchestra and choir at full throttle. Honestly, I was drained when it ended. Drained in the best possible way.

On a smaller scale, we held our summer concert this afternoon. It too, was full of joy. We played in a new-to-us venue: A Unitarian Universalist meeting house in Norwich, VT. Very serene, joyous space designed in an almost Shaker-like simplicity. High cathedral ceiling; great acoustics! We enjoyed standing room only! Golly. Much, much fun. Cookies, fruit, and juices post-concert. Lovely community gathering.

Now I can bring my energies to focus entirely on my lesson material: Bach's Arioso.

Friday, July 29, 2016

A Wee Problem ...

Oh, oh. It's evident I'm a little out of practice at the loom! As I was threading some heddles just now, I realized that I neglected to distribute them evenly on both sides of the central hooks which hold the bars which hold the heddles. It's no big deal, I can bend the bars that hold the heddles just enough to get them off the hooks and thereby allowing me to shuffle the heddles from one side to the other. But in the process of thinking it through, something made me look at the draft again. Oh, no!

Two things: 1) As it was I had just enough heddles to thread this draft: I have no extras floating around; and 2) looking at the draft again I realize that I missed the fact that the corner block threading was given only once (it's not quite obvious unless one is really alert) and I should have counted it twice (because I need one on each side of the center panel). Oh, no!

Some tense moments. What to do? I would need to order some more heddles, wait for them to arrive, and get them on the frames. Ordering isn't a problem, but there's no way to add heddles after threading has begun. Not on this loom, anyway. Oh, no!

"Think of a solution," I thought. "Make it work," as they would say on "Project Runway". Could I make up some string heddles and get them on the frames? Ooh, that would be a lot of work and I'm not sure what the result would be. Should I order some more heddles and cut the top and bottom loops so I can get them on the frames? Seems such a wasteful thing to do. Oh, no!

I came close to deciding to scrap the project. Start over with something new--or the same draft--but start over. I decided to hold off a bit. Maybe a solution would come. But what? What can I do? Oh, no!

Well, a solution just came to me. It's not a perfect solution, but it's a solution I can live with... The center panel of the draft is a motif of 24 threads repeated ten times. That's 240 threads, hence 240 heddles. If I repeat the motif only 4 times (e.g. make the center panel quite a bit narrower) it would free up 144 heddles--the corner block requires 140. It works. Oh, yes!

So my runner is still going to be the width I had planned on, only the center panel will be narrower. Will it look unbalanced? Maybe. Maybe not. Time will tell. (I think it probably will.) At any rate, I think I will still enjoy it, and I will enjoy the process of weaving it, for sure. And I think it's better than starting over and losing all the work I've already done. Oh, my!

Live and learn.