Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!

Here's wishing everyone a bright and beautiful new year, full of joy and happiness. May all your dreams come true and may you be blessed with health and fortune in the coming months!

This final post for 2012 brings my tally for the year to 100. Not bad! :)

See you in 2013. It was pointed out to me this evening that 2013 is the first year since 1987 that does not contain a repeated digit. How about that!

Weaving wise... the best laid plans...

Oh dear. You'll recall that I set myself to using the lease sticks while mounting this warp. I posted a pic showing my 8 bouts all lined up around the sticks which were taped to the breast beam of my loom.

I spent a large part of yesterday sleying the reed. It felt good and I enjoyed a warm security in knowing that the winding on would be smoother than last time, in large measure because the lease sticks would keep the threads in order as they fed through the reed and heddles. After I sleyed my very last thread (there are 480 of them) I looked down to discover that in total oblivion I'd followed my usual practice of picking up each thread--in correct order thanks to the lease sticks--pulling them out of the sticks and through the reeds. Out of the sticks!! The threads were no longer poised to have their order preserved because I had pulled each one out of the porrey cross. Well hello!

"Oh dear!" I thought. "Well, it's not the end of the world, I'll just struggle with this one like I did the last, and hope for little breakage."

I proceeded to start threading and got less than a quarter way done when I opted for some spinning. By the time I stopped treadling I was a little tired so I set all aside and put a British comedy in the DVD player (the British are so good at comedy aren't they?).

I'm glad I did not get far with the threading because when I was lying in bed this morning I came up with an idea to rescue my warp from the horrors of winding on criss-crossed. I implemented my solution: I threaded a narrow rod (a slat--lease stick--would work) just in front of the heddles... over one, under one, etc. of the threads I'd already threaded (which was less than a quarter of them). Then I suspended the rod in place and proceeded to thread with the extra step of ensuring that one thread goes under the rod and the next goes over. This is effectively creating a cross that will keep the threads in order as they feed through the heddles. That's where they'll break if they are crossed up. In fact, I can transfer the new cross to in front of the reeds and what will happen is that all the criss-crossing (as a result of removing the original porrey cross) will be pushed to the very end of the warp where it won't matter. It's going well, I'm a little over half done with the threading and I think my solution is going to work OK.

It often pays to sleep on a problem. I notice this often with my work. Even those times when, near the end of a day, I'll come up with a solution to a problem, I find it best to sleep on it at least one night before barging ahead with implementation.

Here are 2 pictures of my impromptu rod, one from the front and one from the back. If you look close you can see how the threads are alternating one over, one under.

Here is the rod suspended just in front of the heddles--you can see the green thread I used to suspend it over on the right. This was as far as I'd got in threading last night.

Here is what it looks like from the back where I'm working. (It may appear that the 2 rightmost threads are both going under the rod, but it's an illusion: there's a thread in between them that goes over.):

At least my threads will be going through the heddles straight and that will alleviate most of the problems that can occur. Yay!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Fiber wise... ringing out the old, ringing in the new...

Ringing out the old...
It looks like I'll be finished spinning the rainbow pencil roving by the end of this year. I decided to spin it thinner than it's prepared thickness and let me tell you, it hasn't been easy drafting! But I like the results. Planning to keep it as singles. I will steam it right on the niddy-noddy after it's wound on. This will relax the fibers and straighten it out some as it is quite twisty. I do believe it will then be knit into a rainbow scarf using large needles. I am going to knit length instead of width so I will end up with a true rainbow scarf. On large needles, and after a good blocking it should look a bit misty like--a rainbow scarf!

Here's current spinning progress. The blues and purples and violets are under the green which shows on the outer layers of the bobbin resting on the table. Yellows and oranges are filling up the bobbin on the wheel. Deep orange and red still to go. The remaining roving can be seen on the table:

Ringing in the new...
I have wound 8 "bouts"--they are called--on the warping board and they are now mounted on "lease sticks" taped to the breast beam of my loom, waiting for me to sley them through the reed and thread them through the heddles. I am planning on keeping the lease sticks in place until the warp is fully wound on as I believe I will get a better result this way. The lease sticks are inserted on both sides of the "porrey cross" which I wound into the bouts. The porrey cross keeps the threads in order. (Isn't this weaving vocabulary just wonderful!?) I will need to sley 3 threads per slot in the 10-dent reed to achieve 30 threads per inch. Should be able to start weaving on, or shortly after, the new year. It is hard to see that the big spool of thicker blue cotton in this picture is darker than the thinner blue thread of the bouts, but it is. The darker blue will be the pattern threads:

Speaking of vocabulary, I picked up a book published in 1956 (how convenient considering that's my birth year!) at The Strand bookstore this summer entitled "A Short Dictionary of Weaving" by M.E. Pritchard. It caused me to chuckle when I stumbled upon an entry for "Mistakes in Weaving". She begins the definition thusly:
"Blunders made, usually, during the mounting of the warp, which upset both the pattern and the weaver. ..." HaHa! I think it is funny she thought to have an entry for mistakes at all, and this start of her definition is just too good! :)

Wishing everyone a most Happy New Year! May peace and joy be yours in the coming months, and may your every wish come true!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Subway knitting... has been on hold...

The Wave Stole has been temporarily stalled. I haven't worked on it for about two months. It's because I've wanted to do some reading. I will pick up the stole again after the holidays. It will be one of my resolutions. There will be two resolutions this year, I'll divulge the other one next week. ;)

Here is how far I got with edging the stole:

Reading. It started with Shambala, The Sacred Path of the Warrior by Chögyam Trungpa. I've had the book for several years. I tried reading it back when I was taking piano lessons from a teacher who happened to be a Shambala Bhuddist. It didn't work for me at the time. I picked it up 2 or 3 different times over the course of a few years but never got anywhere with it. So it has sat on the shelf for the past 5 years. Somehow I picked it up again 'round about October and it clicked--I finished it. It was good, but I can't say I'm quite ready for this school. It did, however, point me to the Eastern philosophy section at the bookstore where I picked up a few books by Thich Nhat Hanh.

I came home with Being Peace, and Touching Peace. I really liked them a lot so I went back and picked up Understanding the Mind. Understanding the Mind is not such an easy read but it's worth getting through. I'm almost finished with it. At the moment, my reading list is comprised entirely of Thich Nhat Hanh. In waiting are:

Our Appointment with Life
Walking Meditation
Creating True Peace
Living Buddha, Living Christ

I'm looking forward to them all, so subway knitting will be on hold a little longer.

Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk who currently lives in Plum Village, a meditation center he founded in France. I hope you'll consider picking up a few of his books. Well worth it.

Zen is a school of Mahayana Buddhism... Mahayana is one of the two main Buddhist traditions, the other being Theravada Buddhism. The main difference between them is that Mahayana (meaning "Greater Vehicle") is geared towards a general population, whereas Theravada is geared towards monastic life... The difference is very beautifully and lovingly explained in this video. It's a whole hour long, but it will be an hour well spent. The monk is Lama Choedak Rinpoche. Stay with him at least 20 minutes as he warms up and he is truly charming and delightful...

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Weaving wise... the naked loom...

But first... The mats are out the door. Shipped them via priority this afternoon so they should arrive in time for Christmas. Sigh of relief.

So now my loom is naked again. I'm finding that finishing a woven project is a double faceted experience. There is, of course, exhilaration and all the good feelings that accompany an accomplishment. A wonderful euphoria--gentle drug this craft. But the other part of the experience is being left with a naked loom. The source of many hours of enjoyment is gone and what's left are thrums dangling off the warp beam. Gone is the warp which beckoned and welcomed me into it's web on so many days, for so many wonderful hours. It's a little bit of a let down.

But not for long! Last night I found my next project. Hurray! It will be a runner for the dining table in my new house. It's this beautiful overshot pattern: Table Runner. Overshot was very popular during colonial times. It will be my first overshot pattern. Light blue instead of white, with dark blue. There is a new technique I will learn to do overshot: It requires two shuttles. One shuttle carries what is called a "tabby" thread which, with the warp, creates a background fabric of plain weave. The other shuttle carries the pattern weft and it--surprise!--creates the pattern by floating over x,y,z number of warp threads, hence the name overshot. I ordered some cotton last evening and I'm roaring to go! Hurray!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Weaving wise... cutting it close...

Whew! That was close! Sweatin' the end of placemat #8! I just barely had enough warp left and had to anxiously eek out the last few inches.

It is difficult to weave so close to the heddles as shown in the photo below. I took the picture after the last pick was thrown and you can see how close to the reed I came. (A pick is a weft thread.) About 8" from the end of this mat I had to switch to a smaller shuttle, and when I got within 4" of the end I had to switch to a stick shuttle. The stick shuttle is flat and has little height so I was able to squeeze it through the narrow shed I was getting at that point.

The heddles are changed on each pick (a throw of the weft) and for the last few inches I had to press the pedal to lift the appropriate heddles and also had to use my free hand to press down on the heddles that shouldn't lift for that pick. When the warp becomes short the idle heddles have a tendency to rise when they shouldn't. This technique plus the stick shuttle allowed me to get up real close to the reed.

Just barely made it. But I did and that's what matters now! The weaving is done. The question that remains is whether I can get them seaparated, wet finished, dried, ironed and shipped in time for Christmas? We'll soon find out. Tomorrow won't see much done because I have my cello lesson and will be going in to the office from there. Well, fingers crossed.

Here they are, all eight of them, still attached at the fringe:

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Cello... an anniversary...

I let November pass without mentioning that it's been 2 years since I started cello. Taking up this gorgeous instrument has been a life-altering experience. One of the best things I've ever done for myself. I liken it to the first time I had a full-body massage. At the time, one of the best things I'd ever done for myself.

Funny thing is I can't remember what prompted me to actually look up a teacher and start lessons! I always wanted to play cello--the sound of the instrument is so beautiful, but why I started when I did? I can't recall. Nope, just don't remember. Maybe it was a whim, spur of the moment decision--they're often the best.

I'm currently working on some dances, a bouree and a gigue, in preparation--I hope--for starting in on one of the Bach cello suites. Oh, I hope so. It's a dream of mine to work on them. They're divine. Many times I put them on while I'm weaving or spinning. Absolute bliss.

On the subject of playing an instrument, piano is going splendidly as well. The cello work--as I've mentioned before--has helped tremendously. At the moment I'm working away at some Scarlatti Sonatas. They look deceptively simple, but they're an absolute bugger!! There's some tough stuff in them. It's been good to work on them.

I'm also taking time for Debussy's Ballade every day. Oh how heavenly!! Sheer delight! I am finding 2 against 5 and 3 against 5 rhythms a challenge, but it's coming along. The sheer beauty of this music is total motivation to keep working at it. Here is a recording by the master interpreter of Debussy, Walter Gieseking:

Friday, December 14, 2012

A poem ...

For the horrific tragedy that unfolded in Connecticut this morning.

On the Death of My Child

by Joseph Von Eichendorff
translated from the German by Kate Flores

Far off the clouds are striking,
The night is growing late,
The lamp is burning low now,
Your little bed is made.

Only the wind is wailing
Round about the house
While we sit here lonely,
Listening without.

It is as if you were softly
Going to knock on the door,
Tired after straying,
And come back once more.

Foolish, foolish people!
We are the ones who roam
Still lost in dread of the darkness--
You have long since been home.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Lord of the manor...

That's me! Haaaaaaaaaa!

Signed the papers--several of them--last Friday. The house is officially mine. I am a homeowner for the first time in my life... who would have thought!

I really am excited about this. Saw it again Friday morning for a walk-through and my impressions are even better on second sight. My brother and I took a spin over for a drive-by on Sunday and we scouted the neighborhood a little. I'm thrilled. There is lot's of New England charm round about the place. Miniature chapels, old schoolhouses, quaint cafes, artisans, and lots of beautiful scenery. You get the picture. I'll have pics to show as time moves along.

It was also the weekend of our family holiday party. My brother hosts it at his place early in the month to avoid the inevitable scheduling conflicts that arise amongst my siblings (all 8 of them) at this busy time of year--several of whom have their own families. It's a lovely potluck affair. Indulge me a little brag: there are some very good cooks in my family! Yum, yum, yum!

While pausing for a breather early on Saturday afternoon, I took a short walk up the road where I grew up. It was a pleasant, not-too-cold afternoon clad in winter grey. A refreshing and misty grey. The sort of grey which often portends a blanket of white (which I love). There was only a dusting of snow while I was there, but it was enough to stir in me a happiness at the beauty of it all. A misty fog was down for a visit, and oh! it was grand for walking. I didn't go far, just up to where my Mémé's house used to be. The big old house still exists but is no longer in the family. It has been relocated from it's original position to a place a little further from the road and re-oriented just a bit. With it's new color and big barn, it's quite spectacular.

I snapped a few pics while on my walk. Pics of nature...

"Leaning Birches"

"Winter Fog"

"Wanting To Be Close"

"My Brother's House"

"Mémé's Old House"

"Angel's Wings" (I have got to find out what these trees are called so I can get some for my new property! Love 'em!)

"All Decked Out"

"Slight Recollection of Summer"

"Woodpecker Camouflage" (Try as I may, I couldn't get a clear shot of him/her. It's in the red circled area.)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

'Tis the season...

The holidays are upon us--already! again! I love it. A fun time of year. I'm ringing them in with plenty of weaving, including much hemstitching. Each placemat is hemstiched on both ends as I plod along. I dare say I'm getting kinda good at it--going much quicker now--and I really enjoy the break that the hemstitching brings.

I finished the 4th placemat this morning and started my 5th this evening. There will be 8 in all. The loom sits there so welcoming with this warp on it, beckoning me in my spare moments.

This is what the back of the loom looks like with all my replacements threads resting on top of the back beam when I'm not weaving (I release the tension on the threads when not weaving).

Since it's impossible to replace a warp thread back to the beginning, each replacement needs to be measured out, wound on a spool, and hung with enough weight to match the tension of the other threads. Here is what they look like while I'm weaving, except that in this picture the tension on the warp is slack because I was finished weaving for the while:

I'm celebrating with a real tree again this year. I downsized a bit and I'm simply in love with my 5' tabletop tree. Love it, love it, love it!

Need some special gift for someone? Handmade? Full of warmth, character, and charm? Then by all means visit Handmade By Maegan for sweeeeeet penny rugs and crocheted apparel. You'll be helping young artists while you're at it! (I should disclose that she is my nephew's girlfriend so I'm not totally unbiased in this recommendation! ;) ) See the pretty, pretty penny rug table mat I bought from Handmade by Maegan. It is sweet!!:

I hope this holiday season will bring you peace, love, and happiness in abundance.