Saturday, February 23, 2008

Next Time I Get A Red Cat

Brrrrrr. Cold and grey out there. I've been knitting a Great Grey Slog for many months, on this:

grey blanket small

the cat blanket,to match the cat:

mojo sleeps2

He seems to leave grey cat hair on every knitted object, so I made him one of his own, from handspun Coopworth from Sue's flock up the street. I *designed* the pattern, if you can call it that. It's really just plugging in pattern shapes where they will fit. I started with the cat paws part, then added snakes:

grey field small

because some un-named rascal likes to hunt them and bring them inside for all to enjoy. Next, there are bushes:

grey tree small

in which the snakes and mice hide, followed by a border of mice, which were not as successful as I'd have liked. But I really like the cat prints creeping around the edge:

grey edging small

I couldn't find an edging pattern with cat prints on it, so I made one up. I botched the corners of the edging, which I just slogged around, in keeping with the greyness and slogginess of the project. I will rethink "corners" next time, but not on this grey slog of a blanket. Stick a fork in it, it's done.

You know the end of this story as surely as I do: he will probably eschew *his* personal blanket, and continue to leave an ethereal grey dusting of cat hair over all my other blankets, strategically placed in apparently every cat-friendly spot in the house.

This is up next, for some sort of lace shawl or scarf, it's Polwarth:

Polwarth Feb 2008 small

Can you tell I've been denied color? I was inspired by some Mountain Colors yarn, a new series that is two separate colors in the singles, plied together. It's easy for a spinner to do that, but quite confusingly odd to find it in commercial yarns. The Mountain Colors yarn is making it's debut at Stitches West this weekend, but we saw a preview while Dee worked up a sample pattern.

The red, orange and gold colors are all sunshine and warmth, and cheer a winter weary heart. Last year we had a Mexican trip to break up the long grey winter, not so this year. But next year, we're leaving winter behind, and following the summer. Hooray!

Friday, February 15, 2008


When I learned to weave, it was in a class with 40 floor looms, and lots of people. We could use the weaving studio two full days a week, Wednesdays and Thursdays. There were always people there, actually, there were always women there, we were all women, and it was a social, fun and enriching place to be. I was pregnant with my first child, and there was lots of woman-support, in addition to all the weaving lessons.

Then I moved away.

Suddenly, I was alone all day, with a new baby, in a strange town where I knew no one. My father built me a loom, and my mother paid for membership in a weaving guild, and offered to watch the baby so I could attend (she was really just jonesing for some Grandma-time without me, the fussy mother, around!).

silk shawl2 April 2007

Thank the gods in the heavens for that weaving guild. Those women (and a few men) saved my sanity, taught me more about weaving each time, held my hand through lots of challenges, and became my best friends.

Weaving guilds can be a source of friends and information, learning and sharing, and yet get disparaged quite a lot. Yes, they can be clique-y, and hard to penetrate at first. But, in the intervening years I have joined more than one guild, and attended meetings at many others, and been priveleged to speak and teach workshops at some as well. There is a gold mine of information and friendships in these places, and their time is fast disappearing. If you can join one, do so. Then be patient and committed, you will reap the benefits.

Guilds have sponsored conferences all across the US and Canada. These events are run by volunteers, for the most part, and it is becoming harder and harder to find people willing to do the work, or willing to do it again, since the members are dwindling in numbers and ageing. I am curious how this will all resolve, and a bit sad, as I have learned most of what I know since that first energetic class from workshops sponsored by guilds and conferences.

altar cloth3

Over the years many of us have bemoaned the shrinking of the guilds, but the world has moved on, sometimes replacing the mid-day, mid-week meetings with evening guilds, weekend guilds, times and places where people who work can also attend.

When my children were younger, and I had to juggle their schedules and mine, I fit weaving into corners of my life here and there. I used to dream of being a hermit, and having all the time in the world to sit and spin, weave, dye and knit. I even bought 20 acres in a remote area, with only a seasonal dirt road as access. I dreamed of building a cabin there, quiet, solitary and with lots of time, and taking all my books and magazines, my loom and my wheel, and just creating.

Then my boys grew up.

One year alone convinced me to move into town, away from my little house in the woods, just to see people every day. I sold the 20 acres (to pay for my boys' college educations, a worthy return). I once again enjoyed the company of artists, this time a small-town arts community. There were shows, exhibits, plays and performances, pot-luck dinners and casual, drop in gatherings. And, suddenly, access to the internet.

First, I found lists: weaving lists and spinning lists and the Dyer's List. I met some of the people with whom I corresponded at conferences and guilds, and the whole world opened up: I had access now to not just my local guilds and conference, but to people of like nmind in far flung places. Wonderful!

Blogs started up, and more than a few of us joined weaving blogs, a collection of weaving related web-logs. My friend Charleen runs the list, and there are many, many inspiring places to visit, among them Bonnie, a funny and talented friend and weaver of over 40 years' experience, Sandra Rude, who does several amazing and inspired series of multi-shaft scarves, the latest of silk dyed with wood chips, and designed to look like wood grain, and Kaz, from Australia, who does lovely weaving in yarns hand-dyed beautiful colors.

To add to blogs, Syne Mitchell started up a podcast about weaving (and yes, you can hear me, in episode 22). How amazing to hear people's stories, some of whom I would never meet otherwise, from all around the weaving world. And now, Syne has begun a new project: Weavezine, an online weaving magazine. The first issue is a gem, and I have only skimmed the surface so far.

tibet shawl9

The world is a different place from those days when I learned to weave. New weavers don't have to feel isolated, there is information out there at the push of a button. There are more magazines, conferences and workshops devoted to weaving than ever before, and interest is once again on the upswing. The tools are reasonably priced and easy to work with, and even Ravelry has groups devoted to weaving.

In fact, there so many resources I feel rich with inspiration, information and community. I think I might even be able to think about being that hermit again, were it not for my local guild, and the amazing women here. We have knitting days, and spinning days, and field trips to knitting shops, and two very fun local shops. My friends are weavers, spinners, and knitters, my days are full of textiles, my vacations are often textile oriented and my travel is often textile related. It is a full life, and a life full of textile friends. If I had to say concisely what weaving means to me, it would be just that: community.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Be Flexible

snow2 Feb 08

There are still parts of the world where creating textiles for daily use is a way of life. Few, but they are still there. I often wonder what it is like for a village weaver, in remote Central Asia, to run out of yarn. Would she? Perhaps not, but she just might run out of a particular yarn, say the red she is using in her carpet.

So, she will use something else.

The textile can't wait until next shearing, the next dye day, for new yarn to be made or, *gasp*, purchased. The weaving may be pegged out on the ground, or on an upright loom braced in the corner of the one room. It doesn't sit there, in a neat little out-of-the-way studio, waiting. Someone needs that rebozo this winter. Someone needs a carpet to sleep on, to keep old bones off the cold ground.

The textiles show this. One color runs out, another begins. The warp ends hanging out of the end of the rug are mostly white, but there are some grey at the edge. The dyelot changes here and there, the value of the color is different, there may even be an entirely different fiber: mohair where once was wool.

I find these spots charming, evidence of the hand of the weaver. Machine made textiles lack variation, but it shows up in handmade textiles, and mostly those for use by the maker and her family. It is evidence of human endeavor, the hand of the maker, once thought of as *loving hands at home* now rare, time-consuming and requiring skill. Handwork.

We try to avoid variation: buying all of one dyelot for a project, spinning up *enough* yarn to finish, carefully dyeing colors to match. What I find charming in another's work, I try to avoid in mine. Yet I still run into this issue, despite the best laid plans. Yarns are discontinued, so I can't buy more. Wool from a particular sheep changes year to year, so it will never be quite the same *dyelot*.

flamingo snow2

This past week, I have had to think more like a village weaver. Make do, change plans, use what I have, use it up. We have had a few snowstorms, about a foot total of snow, over several days. Then, as it melts, there is ice. I live at the top of a ridge, and there are a few steep hills to negotiate in and out. Icy hills on curvy roads make for treacherous travel. So I have been home.

Internet shopping is fun, of course, and delivery usually speedy. But not when the UPS truck cannot get up the road, whoops. So plans change, outings are canceled, we eat what we have on hand and hope (this time with success) that the power stays.

I have resources here, I have lots to work with. I just have to be flexible, change plans, and use something else, perhaps. It works well with the random knitting:

random knitting small

There are some surprises: the creativity restriction engenders can make for choices that are off the beaten path, sometimes with unexpectedly successful results. I should try it more often.

It is a fun dance, flexibility. We fight it with planning and calculating. I am accustomed to my calculations being wrong (literally) which, with the textiles I create, is not a real concern. Plain weave is plain weave is plain weave. Whether it is 15" wide or 14.9" wide is rarely an issue. I'm not working on one of those quasi-industrial handlooms making complex inter-laced patterns that require math and concentration.

I work on simple looms, weave simple fabric, spin every-day yarns, and knit catch-as-catch can. Tool breaks? Make another. Warp needs adjustment? Use a shim. Color runs out? Change plans. On a snowy winter morning, with the sun finally shining, and a cup of tea, the simple process of making brings pleasure and comfort, and a connection with village weavers all over the world.

rain chain Feb 08 small

Many thanks to Abby and Phreadde for their blog-awards! I have connected with many people, and many people's work, through blogs. I have an eclectic list of blogs that I read, many from friends, and some of people I have never met. The list changes, blogs come and go, depending on my interest, and their activity. I have learned a lot, gotten lots of chuckles, and begun to follow some stories as people write about their paths, whether it's textiles or some other road.

Last, during a snow storm, you are my community. I cannot wish for more. Thank you.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Canadian Squirrels Emigrate

Sue has a treee in her backyard that was hit by lightning some years back, and has a big gash down its length. It's a Big Tree:

squirrel tree

The strike was long ago, the tree looks fine, but she has wondered how healthy it is, and if she should have it taken down. If it falls, it would likely hit her garden, greenhouse and take down some fences on her property that keep in the sheep and goats. So she watches the tree. It's easy to watch: it's right outside her kitchen window:

squirrel tree4

One day, she noticed movement part way up the tree. A squirrel (skwir-rel for you Brits) had a nest and his (her?) tail was has hanging out of a hole about level with the window:

squirrel tree2

But is that a tail? Are squirrels blue? Yikes! Several months previous, Sue had some dyed wool drying on the back porch. Could it be?

squirrel tree3

Yes. Canadian squirrels are invading, and bringing their wool-stealing, stolen wool flaunting habits with them (Feb. 10th entry).

The border is apparently fluid. Measures(August 28th entry)will be taken.