At Loose Ends

November 25, 2008


Over the last months I have been listening to Weavecast, starting with the oldest episodes and slowly working my way toward the more recent.  Syne Mitchell confesses to an early fear of warping and, in the last episode I listened to, fear of tapestry.  Fear of warping makes sense to me, but what I seem to be suffering from now is fear of treadling and shuttle throwing.  Weird!

More specifically I am afraid of discovering that I can’t weave on my loom any more.  Sensible me says, “Warp it and see.  The worst that can happen is you’ll have an unwoven warp.”  Cringey me says, “Yes, but what a waste that would be, and as long as I don’t weave, I don’t have to face the bad news.”

My last project aggravated a couple joints and they seem to be bearing a grudge, no matter how sweetly I remonstrate with them.  I know I mentioned the treadling problem, but I failed to mention that tying off the bunches of fringe (not twisting, just tying!) on two scarves resulted in not being able to use my gimpy right index finger for nearly two weeks.  I need that finger for my mouse!

The project was to be a sampler for three baby blankets in Summer and Winter.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to tackle all those blankets, which made the sampler feel kind of dreary.  Meanwhile two of the babies are swiftly passing the gift stage, and the third will be arriving any time.

My problem?  I am stuck immobile between weaving a preparatory sampler I don’t really want to weave, for a tardy project I doubt I am physically capable of; and ditching both the sampler warp (too short to be anything but a sampler) and the blanket plans.

Der Mann and I talk about these divergent aspects of our personalities.  While Der Mann enjoys starting things, I enjoy carrying them to completion.  I don’t experience pleasure in simply starting a project.  In fact, I have trouble understanding it even when he explains it to me.  The birth of the idea itself isn’t the fun part for me.  For me, the reward is in seeing how the idea grows up to become something.

Arbitrary activity bores me to the point of hives (I have loathed board games since I was a kid) but when I am on the trail of an end result that interests me, I can pursue it to ridiculous lengths, happy as a clam.  This isn’t perseverance, as Der Mann thought it was before I told him my secret.  It’s a sort of addiction to the narrative of making things.  Like a child with a story book, I demand a proper beginning, middle, and end.

It’s different from being goal oriented.  I happily abandon half-read books, half-walked trails, unreached summits, boring movies, vacation plans.  Goals seem very arbitrary to me most of the time.  Ideas do not.  It makes me nervous if the idea of a blanket already exists, but the possibility of the physical blanket has disappeared.  What happens to the idea, then?  Does it float away harmlessly, like a stray balloon?

According to my husband, yes, this is what ideas do, and he has the boxes of sketchbooks to prove it.  To me an escaped idea feels more like one of those sets of plastic rings from a six-pack of pop that you’re supposed to cut up so it doesn’t tangle the sea creatures.

While hosting negotiations between sensible me and cringey me, I have been marking time with my rigid heddle loom.  I decided to make a rigid heddle scarf for my mom and each of my aunts out of the bits of yarn remaining from Great Granny’s stash.  They were all quite close to her.


Yes, I have been weaving while standing at the kitchen counter.


Sparkly Nest

November 12, 2008

A few weeks ago I was admiring Suzan’s collection of spindles on her blog.  I have been wanting to try spinning with a spindle, so I asked if she had any advice about a starter spindle.  Suzan said a CD spindle is a good one for a beginner, and kindly offered to send me the rubber gasket needed to fit the CD’s to the dowel.

Today, this arrived in the mail.


Methinks that is a very big box for a little rubber gasket.

When I opened it up, I felt suddenly. . .


. . . as though I were twirling through sparkly multicolored vapors . . . yes, strangely uplifted!

Transformed, even?

A complete CD spindle with instructions rested in a nest of sparkly roving–soft natural colors mixed beautifully with orchid and citron.


And under that, even more wonderful fluff!


I am an innocent when it comes to wool preparation, but I read in my Woodland Woolworks catalog that new spinners should start with a not-too-slippery longish-staple carded fiber, so I read the directions and started with the least slippery roving in the box.  It was so fun! 

Spindle spinning is anti-weaving.  Or maybe, if it is like any part of weaving, it is like throwing the shuttle.  Rhythm and alertness and consistency and accumulation. 

I already begin to get a sense that achieving consistent yarn with a drop spindle is to be done more than it is to be talked about.


In the mean time, good thing I know how to take my lumps!

Fences Fall Down

November 6, 2008

This is the second scarf from the navy merino warp.  I was going to name it something like “Subtle” or “Manly” and give it to my cousin–until I started weaving it.  Then I realized the purple cloth I was making would look really bad on my cousin, who is a tawny redhead.  There is no man so manly that he must wear an unbecoming scarf, says I.

Adding stripes in the ground started out as a yarn-saving scheme, but I love planning stripes.  I really got into it.  And I was fascinated by the way the burgundy ground-weft made a misch masch with the navy warp up close, and yet when I backed away, they interacted to make exactly the same purple as the pattern weft.  I kept getting up and standing back from my loom in different lights just to re-amaze myself with this trick.


Scarf: Fences Fall Down

Warp: 28/2 Silk City merino, doubled, in navy blue

Ground weft: same in navy blue and burgundy, not doubled

Pattern Weft: one complete skein Cascade Yarns “Cascade 220″ worsted-weight knitting yarn in a heathery purple, courtesy yardsaling relative

Sett: 11 doubled epi in 8 dent reed

ppi: 23

Width in reed: 14 1/8″

Woven width: 12 3/4″

Woven length excluding fringe: 62 5/8

Finished width: 11 1/2″

Finished length excluding fringe: 59 1/2”

Fringes: 2 1/4 on loom, tied when off loom with guided half hitches.



I took the photo nearly a month ago, before the monsoons arrived.  There are no more skies like this.  My hollyhocks have finally bowed their heads in defeat.  (Actually I love grey skies so I can’t complain.  Except, um, about the torrents.)  I got the hollyhock starts from my mom’s place last fall because I wanted to plant something hardy along the collapsing backyard fence.  Hollyhocks will survive fence demolition and being trampled on by fence builders.  Also, if the fence is torn out and never replaced, the flowers will make their own little hedge for the enjoyment and privacy of future tenants.

Which brings me to the name of my scarf.  Our landlord is a self-conscious eccentric, and frankly (in ways unrelated to his eccentricity) rather frightening.  Duplex-neighbor Thistledown told me this story:  None of the other fences on the property are in much better shape than the one in the back, which is only standing because a metal T-post has been driven into the ground to hold it up.  One day, when Thistledown was working outside, the man who owns the apartment complex next door called her over.  He wanted to know when our landlord was going to fix the fence on the property line.  Thistledown passed this on to our raw-vegan-musician-nudist landlord the next time she spoke to him on the phone.  He paused a beat, and pronounced:

“Fences fall down.”

Oh, the blissfully inescapable logic!

Thistledown just moved.  Our landlord kicked her out of the duplex.  The way he did this was messy, somewhat shifty, and horrible timing for Thistledown–a single working mom who has just gone back to college.  He wanted to live in her unit.  And now there he is, with his new girlfriend.  And now here am I, wondering how the fence will fall.

I only play at naming, but this time I find I am a little more serious.  At first I felt the name had tainted my scarf with landlord-ick.  Then, gradually, I began to feel it had turned into a charm.  I could do worse than borrow some of my landlord’s blissful logic, in the face of his inescapable self.

If I were a sorceress I would give it to him and see what kind of magic it worked.  I am afraid it would not be the nice kind.