Weft Behind

May 5, 2010

Last year I missed the big weavers’, potters’, metalworkers’, woodworkers’, and glassworkers’ guild show in the city because we had just moved and I was doing scut work on the house.  This year we went, scut work or no.  I didn’t waste any time in achieving my purpose:

The “weft-overs” table!  (Pun not mine.  Thank goodness.)

There was a lot of the same scratchy mystery yarn as the other time I went to the show, but this time there was linen, too.  The cylinders are smallish (not as big as a standard cheese of Borgs cottolin), and heavy on the pink, but I scooped up almost everything that was there.  Those tags?  Most of them say 50 cents, 75 cents, and $1!  To be honest, I was greedy.  I only left a couple of particularly pepto pinks, some stained stuff, and maybe a few that smelled.  But one of the weavers mentioned that there was a lot more yarn earlier in the day.  Does it make it any better that I was only feeding on the crumbs of a greater greed than my own?

I justify my purchase by the fact that when I wove with all-linen yarn, I loved it.  Not many weavers can say they may one day weave with linen as fine as 40/2 and believe themselves.  Too, the little bits of different colors are just what I need for rosepath.  As soon as I realized that I can weave ANY 8-shaft figured rose-path (number of treadles being no object on my table loom), I began wondering how I was going to get hold of a bunch of different colors of linen and cottolin for the pattern weft.  Serendipity!

Rosepath is a threading I was considering for my Pics to Picks project.  Rosepath ground cloth, with a woven net overlay for a trellis, and crewel-embroidered flowers.

But considering how far I’ve come on my interim warp…

Yes.  It’s insane.  The mural towel warp has been sitting like this for a month.  I finished warping before we left town for a trip to see my relatives, during which Der Mann got hideously ill.  I nursed him for a week, then spent a week staving off the same plague myself.

And yet, how can I resist?

Twenty minutes and I could be weaving my first picks.  But there is the garden.  We had to re-grade it last year because water was going into the basement, which left us with a 100-percent bare earth yard.  I got as many plants in the ground as I could in the fall, and earlier this spring, but it’s a drop in the bucket to what’s ahead.  I have supernaturally bad timing for garden tasks.  ALWAYS, when I’m ready to work a bed, or set things out, or harden things off (my twelve trays of starts), the rains come or it gets cold.  A week ago it was dry enough for us to turn over the cover-crop in the vegetable garden and the two beds that take up the whole front yard, but then the sky opened up again before I could get them raked.  If you try to work clay soil when its wet, you just make a mess which will later turn to hardpan.

A “tulip wind” is my mother’s name for the heavy wind that always seems to come right when the tulips are in full bloom, tossing apart the blossoms.  Here it is a “tulip downpour.”  I am not a big fan of tulips, but I do have some favorite cultivars I’ve always wanted to plant.  Actually, my Queen of Nights put on a decent show before the rain took them down.  Really, they were past.  I like them when they fade and open to burgundy almost as much as when they are big, shiny, and purple-black.  A metaphor for youth and age?  Innocence and experience?  The transience of beauty?

Okay, so I haven’t been weaving towels because I have been sick-ish, and gardening, but what else?

An inkle loom.

This was another “weft over” from the guild show.  I’ve been shopping for a standing inkle loom.  Shopping in the sense of “looking without expecting to find.”  They are rare in the states.  I don’t like the Le Clerc cendrel much, because it seems more of a warping board with benefits.  This homemade beast is beautifully solid maple, but I was quite surprised when I got it home and actually worked out the warping plan, that “standing inkle” doesn’t mean “lots-of-warp inkle.”  This one has a maximum capacity of two and three-quarter yards.  I wouldn’t care, but I would like to weave upholstery gimp and edge trims for curtains.  Oh well.  The blue wool I’m weaving off now is probably going to be a hat band.  The main reasons I wanted this loom was for a way to tension card weaving and rigid-heddle pick-up bands, but old fashioned inkling, with the leashes, is quite fun.  You can just sit down and do it while you wait for the kettle, without worrying about your tension or beat being inconsistent if you hop up and come back to it later.

Perhaps you noticed the mess in my messy corner.  A messy corner (in fact several messy corners) is what I have instead of a writing desk right now.  Here’s a close up of the other reason I haven’t been weaving.

I am designing a porch for my dad to help us build.  To replace the 4 foot drop from our back door.  I am also trying to get a plumber to come and do a lot of work that needs to be done before we can build the porch and demolish the moldy walls in the basement.

Tradesmen confuse me as much as the weather.  I like them.  I admire them, especially when they are creative and quick on the uptake.  They come as soon as I call them to make an estimate, spending more than an hour going over the work I’d like done.  They seem to want to get started.  They even ask about my time constraints.  They promise quotes . . . . then?  If it were clear they no longer wanted the work, I could move ahead with another guy.  But it’s this twilit netherworld of obscure signs and signals.  My chosen plumber–let’s call him Ryan, because that is his name–spontaneously emails me an apology for not sending the quote earlier, with a promise to send one soon.  Surely, he simply wouldn’t have bothered to find my e-mail address and send an email if he had written me off?  I e-mail back, cheerily reminding him of deadline, and asking if he can still fit me in.  GIVING him an out, if he wants it.  Nothing.  But then again, a lot of construction guys don’t check e-mail very often.  Meanwhile, I am afraid to nag on the phone because I have learned from experience that that will only confuse things.  If Ryan doesn’t want the job, my phone calls will simply impel him to keep stringing me along in order to avoid an awkward telephone moment.  But if I take his email silence for refusal too soon, and start the whole confused process with another plumber, I’m even less likely to get the work done by the deadline, i.e. when my deck helpers arrive.

Boy.  That sounds a lot like dating.  All that misery I dodged in my teens was only forestalled, it seems.  Any romance–I mean plumbing–advice?

Anyway, designing porches is hard.  I am good at this sort of thing, because I seem to have an infinite patience for it, but so far I have clocked approximately 3 full, nine-hour days of pure thinking and drawing–not counting all the reading I did first, to find out how you actually build a porch, lumber tolerances, that kind of thing.  It is a deceptively simple structure.  The site constraints are the hard part.  It has to be next to the house, but free standing, and I don’t want it to be a rotting, malproportioned heap of crap with no stairs or railing, like the deck we removed before we graded the yard.  I am drawing four different board-by-board plans showing the different views.  When I finish the last one, today I hope, I will scan the plans and send them to my dad.  And he will probably tell me it looks a little strange, and do I really need doubled 2×10 support beams, and couldn’t we just use pre-cut stringers from Home Depot?

It’s a weird situation.  We are renting the house from my parents, but they want us to fix it up according to our own taste, since we are the ones doing the work and it looks like we will be living in it for a number of years before they sell it. On the other hand, they are footing the repairs bill, and they don’t like to get contractors to do things they can help us do themselves.  Hence the need for board-by-board plans, so I can point to them and explain my reasons for every feature I designed, and hopefully still end up with a decent porch, if not the exact one I drew.  I am not a good delegator or explainer.  Paired with a talent for exhaustive, logical planning, that is a recipe for stress.

Which is why I like weaving.  I can do it by myself.

Can you imagine trying to get a loom warped by telling your dad how you want it done?

Oh, yeah.  And I cut my hair.  Sometimes I play a little trick on Der Mann.  I put something out for him to notice, and see how long it takes him.  He is a champion non-noticer.  I figured a hair cut was a good opportunity for this.  No, not the hair on my head, which would grow out again before he would notice it, but the chopped off end of my braid looked so, sort of—obscene, that I just had to leave it on the bathroom counter and wait for a comment. (Just so you know. That paint job. Is not mine.)

Four days.  And then, rightly speaking, it was the cat. “The cat’s on the counter.  He’s found your hair.  He’s freaking out!” said Der Mann.

The next morning it was on the living room floor.  The cat had been playing with it in the night.  The perfect toy: smells and tastes like Trapunto, but can be batted about like prey.


All Hail

December 31, 2009

First, the final Merino Scarf/Hat Trade Report: nothing to report. Feeling a bit like the Little Red Hen, I got online and ordered a boughten merino wool hat from Sierra Trading Post.

We got our first snow a few days ago: one afternoon and evening’s worth, which were enough to snarl the commute through the whole region.  Nevertheless, people tend to accept it in a festival spirit because it is rare. Der Mann and I took a walk while it was still falling. Children had been let out to play in the dark, and there was a pack of giddy, roaming teenagers. A family was sledding on the street by the school; they’d built a jump. A woman took pictures of her snow-covered Christmas lights.  The town’s brand new plow (and first ever; it had pride of place in the 4th of July Parade) zoomed up and down Main Street removing 2 of the total 3 inches of snowfall, all of which were expect to melt by morning.

We walked past a couple of little girls messing around in their front yard, chanting in a mesmeric monotone, “All hail the snow. All hail the snow.” I was about to obey them with a “hail” when they snarked at us to get out of the street. Little twits. It made us laugh.

People who hate freezing weather move here on purpose to escape it, while I am one of those crazies who really likes snow. REALLY likes snow. Clearly, I am wasted here. Dark skies–preferably with white stuff falling out of them–irrationally lift my mood, the way some people perk up when it’s sunny. I joke that I have reverse seasonal affective disorder. I don’t even mind it lying on the ground for months. Not even when I have to shovel. Not even when I lived in New England.

I also like gardening where I can grow peaches and fig trees and camellias, which would be a bit of a problem if I got as much snow as I wanted.

Here is the last Great Granny yarn scarf, finished sometime around the start of December. It is for my English professor half-sister. I still can’t think “English professor” when I picture her, but that is what she is–albeit a very young one with a preternatural talent for getting good haircuts.

Scarf: All Hail the Snow

Plain weave on rigid heddle loom

22/2 cyan Silk City merino, doubled
burgundy worsted knitting wool from Great Granny’s stash
cadet blue worsted from (I think) Great Granny’s stash
heathered scarlet wool, maybe a 16/2, doubled (used it for overshot in my first weaving class)
fat natural wool flamé with regularly spaced slubs

Weft: 22/2 cyan Silk City merino, not doubled

Ends: 77

Heddle: 9-and-a-bit dpi

Picks per inch: 9

Width in reed: 9 1/2″

Length on loom: 70 1/4″

Woven width: 7 5/8″

Woven length: 66 3/4″

Finished width: 6 1/4″

Finished length: 62 1/2″

Finishing: Warm hand wash with chafing and agitation, 10 minute soak, dried flat.

Fringes hemstitched in bundles of four.

Conclusions: Sides a little wavy due to different shrinkage of cadet blue worsted. This is my favorite scarf of the four I made this year. I like the warp shots of textured yarn, which give me a lot of ideas, and the formal symmetry of the stripes.

On the other hand I am sick of scarves. I’m very ready for something else. Impediments? I don’t yet have a working non-rigid-heddle loom I can use without hurting myself (though I’m in the process of revamping one), and there may not be many more projects left in me before spring. I’m perpetually aware of the house reno nightmare waiting in the wings, ready to take center stage as the season changes. I should be ordering seed already, if I want to get my indoor starts going in time, to fill the bare dirt as soon as possible, to keep the yard from simultaneously washing away and being overtaken by weeds.

Anything could happen, though.

I’m not one to mark changes according to the calendar, but I haven’t often been as glad to see the back of one year and the front of the next.

All Hail the Snow! All Hail Two Thousand Ten! Twelve years ago today I was on a street in Edinburgh in a crowd so dense I could barely move, getting my butt pinched by strangers–nice enough in its way but you really only need to do it once. Tonight I will make pizza and watch anime with my favorite person in the world and our cat.

No Man’s Land

June 19, 2009

I owe you good people an update. I’m not sure how to go about it. I’d like to blog about cheerful things, but the cheerful things are thin on the ground right now. In fact I’d have to crawl around our wilderness of gouged clay with a magnifying glass to find them, and I am too tired. My granny has a habit of saying, sonorously and self-mockingly, “This too shall pass…” Which is the frame of mind I’m in. In my better moments.

First, we do not have a cat. We had a cat (officially) for three days then she left and didn’t come back. It’s been two weeks. We think she went looking for a more secluded hidey-hole to have her kittens in and didn’t survive the birth.

Second, the yard is now a mess far, far beyond our ability to fix ourselves. After his two men on bobcats were here for 4 1/2 days doing terrible work slowly, the contractor left. By then we were happy be rid of him before he did more damage. Der Mann missed a day and a half of work to supervise the tail end job and try to get him to fulfill the most important terms of his contract. When final check-writing time rolled around and Der Mann refused to pay more than the contract specified, this contractor, who’d been jollying him along all this time (taking Der mild-mannered Mann for the Good Cop) accused of him of being a shyster and, basically, evil. “You just wanted to get me over a barrel,” were among his choice words.

This was more disturbing than all the rest of the mess, crushed gutter and all. The last thing we wanted to do was to make an enemy in the small town we just moved to! My aunt’s take is, “He was a skunk, and when he was cornered, he did what a skunk does: he sprayed.” If you can believe it, until that moment we were still going to get his bid to complete the unfinished work we’d hired him to complete in the first place, treating it as a second job–provided he drove the bobcat himself instead of having his balky crew do it. The horror show was making us that crazy!

Yesterday I found 3 negative Angie’s List reviews by someone who’d had pretty much the same experience with this guy as we did, only worse. I was so embarrassed. We subscribed to Angie’s List specifically to help us choose an excavator; I hadn’t figured out that you had to look up each contractor by each separate category of work he does, in order to see all his reviews.

So, now we have to find another excavator. The ones who’ve come so far look around with big, round eyes and estimate another 4 days of work. It’s kind of funny. We can see them making an effort not to badmouth the colleague who put us in this fix. They scratch their heads and ask things like, “And what kind of machine was he using?” Before we had anyone out Der Mann and I spent about 11 hours (collectively) digging trenches with a pick and a mattock to show where the final soil levels are supposed to be on various slopes. It’s impossible to dig through the pure clay with a shovel alone. In the back, where the really bad fill from the previous owners is still in place, even the mattock bounces.

I also made a point-by-point typed list of every place we want dirt taken away, and put out a forest of beribboned stakes to show them exactly what areas we are talking about. I gave a copy of the list to each excavator “to use when you’re making up your bid.” I went out to see one of their job sites, and talked with the woman who was having the work done. If I’m going to play the fussy bitch, I figure I might as well play it to the hilt. I also watch to see if they talk to me or Der Mann or both of us, and when they talk to me, whether they do it in fatuous way or a businesslike way. I am fed up with the Male Pattern Deafness, and Der Mann can’t take more days off work.

My dad and mom and made a special trip to see the mess. My dad wants to be here when we have the rest of the work done, which is probably just as well. Then we hosted my aunt for the weekend.

Actually I am thinking of starting a business. I’m going to call it “Rent-a-Male.” That way, women whose spouses, fathers, sons, or male friends can’t make it to the job site will always have someone on hand to stand on the porch with his arms folded and spit in the dirt, menacingly.


I’m Traumatized

June 3, 2009

Reading is not enough to keep my mind off the destruction outside. They started it yesterday.


One thing I noticed as I was taking the “before” pictures is that it is almost impossible to capture topography with a camera. The flattening effect of photography. I think painting and drawing do a lot better.

Anyway, they are digging great honking mountains of dirt out of our yard with Big Machines. Pretty much no area of our lot will be untouched.  They are going to dig deeper than what you see now, too. My front yard will be a pit when they’re done. I’m thinking a drawbridge and a crocodile moat would be about right.

A long series of events led to this. At first we thought the “slight negative grading” around the foundation that the inspector mentioned could be corrected with shovels and wheelbarrows and our own muscle. Then we discovered what a mess the soil was. Beyond awful. The house is 96 years old, but most of the dirt is much newer. Generations of yahoos thought the answer to the fact that it was built on a slope was to haul in truckloads cheap fill and gravel and at various times, allowing them more places to park their cars. The fill caused water to flow toward the basement. In one place, right under a mis-laid pipe from the downspout, a non-draining cinder block retaining wall held it against the foundation like a dam.

We only discovered the extent of the water problem when we started taking down the raw, cheap tongue-and-groove that had been nailed to the basement ceiling and the 1/4 inch unfinished plywood that had been nailed to the sheet rock walls as wainscotting. We knew about the small moldy wall by the cinder-block dam, but we thought the rest of the basement was okay. They had done such horrible things to the rest of the house for no apparent reason–except possibly laziness–that we were willing to believe they had gone crazy with the rough wood in the basement both because they had no taste and found it easier to use a nail gun than to sand and paint the sheet rock. We called it The Man Cave and laughed, thinking it would be an easy fix–at least compared to the rest of the house.

But no. The basement had only been finished recently, and it turns out the former owners didn’t use any kind of a moisture barrier–the studs were in direct contact with the foundation and floor. Naturally, the walls were soon infested with mold. What to do? Cut the sheetrock away to a height of two feet off the floor in a laughable attempt at mold abatement, then cover the gaping holes holes in the sheet rock and moldy studs with plywood to fool prospective buyers.

Then didn’t we feel dumb! We were even looking for mold when we first came to look at the house.  I thought my bloodhound-nose for mold was infallible.  Because of the moldy farmhouse we lived in, and my resulting allergies and first-hand knowledge of the near impossibility of eradicating mold, it was our deal-breaker.  Only it didn’t.

My dad is going to help us re-frame the whole basement. Or rather, help Der Mann do it, because my allergy is really bad. Just the one patch we uncovered has made it hard for me to spend time there. I try to run up and downstairs with my loads of laundry before I start to cough.

We reasoned that it wouldn’t to do any good to re-frame the basement if ground- and roof-water was still being directed toward the foundation. That’s where the big machines come in.  I would have liked a cheaper and less intrusive fix, but once I started looking at the lay of the land, I could see it just wasn’t possible. In order to take away as much dirt as you need to take here, you have to take even more there. Which is basically what the experts said.

Also, we have to unbury the porch to keep it from rotting, which meant removing the cement walkway that led to the buried porch.




The only good part about this mess is that there was no remainder of the original landscaping to worry about, after the depredations of the former owners. I love old gardens. It would have been hard for me to make the decision to grade properly if it had involved tearing out antique snowball bushes, bridal wreath, lilacs, or the decendents of flowers and herbs planted back when the house was new. (Actually, I should correct myself. There is one old Rose of Sharon and one lilac. Luckily, they are in places where the machines can word around them (knock on wood).

I am learning that it is hard to communicate with equipment operators. I’m having the opposite problem from what I expected: it’s hard to get them to take away as much dirt as needs to go, as much as they agreed to (I thought.) I say 4 inches, they take 2. I’m afraid this is because we chose to pay a set price, rather than hourly plus dump fees–and they had already underbid the job in their eagerness to get work. The more dirt they take away, the less profit. Politeness plus directness seems not to be effective. It’s like I’m talking to the air, if the air could get annoyed. Maybe they are so used to bullying and cajoling, that unless I bully and cajole, they think I’m not serious?

One, maybe two more days of this.


Der Mann and I left town for a long weekend in Oregon.  In the car I suddenly realized that, not counting obligatory family visits, this was our first vacation in about two years.  (Maybe I shouldn’t count the two-years-ago vacation, since we were location scouting for Der Mann’s last job hunt.  Which means our last vacation was . . . ?)  Anyway, after 8 years of marriage it has finally dawned on us that we are not very good at vacations.  It’s not that we are workaholics or anything like that.  It’s just, we are never quite able to get past the knowledge that even as we are spending mucho $$ on gas, state park yurts, campsites, and hotel rooms; hauling a rice cooker and an ice chest around, we are at the very same time spending $23 a night on perfectly good lodgings with a stove, groceries, and our own bed.  Which stands vacant while we load coins into showers and stop to organize the dirty dishes in the back of our minivan.

This awareness seems to counteract the happy-go-lucky spirit of a vacation, which I’ve been told is a thing many people find relaxing.

This vacation worked out better because we stayed in a cabin on a farm.  A second-career farm couple has opened their 40 acres to visitors.  It’s nestled into a cranny between forested hills off the Alsea Valley, which is about at the halfway point when you cross the Coastal Range from the Willamette Valley to the ocean.  We ended up there because we’d been through the Alsea Valley a few years ago, and thought it was one of the most beautiful places we’d seen.  Here are pictures from a walk we took at the county park just outside the town of Alsea.  There were a lot of spawning salmon.

The owners of Leaping Lamb Farm keep 30 to 40 hair sheep, which they sell for grass-fed lamb.  In the barn there are HUGE bags of wool, left over from the wool sheep they have pretty much phased out.  Apparently they can’t get enough money for the wool to justify hauling it away.  (“Make me an offer!” S told me when she found out I weave.)  There are also all the other animals you’d expect: horses, a burro, chickens, geese, a peacock, dogs and cats.  S takes you around to do the chores if you want to, and is a friendly font of information on all subjects farmy and rural Oregon-y.  Her generosity comes of having learned everything the hard way herself, since she and her husband bought the drippy 125-year-old farm straight out of southwestern suburbia 5 years ago.

The guest cabin was a big, fully finished kit cabin decorated with Pendleton blankets and southwest-style woven rugs.  The floors were wide pine boards.  It was very nice to hang around there.  No itchy bedspreads or pictures you want to turn to the wall.  The best part was the full kitchen.  The only housekeeping stuff we had to bring was food.

I looked at the Pendleton woolen things a lot.  I’ve been on tours of both the mills (Washougal is better), but I didn’t think much about the products.  By gosh, those are some excellent blankets.  I’d like to furnish my linen closet with a few, when I have a linen closet, because I can’t see myself ever weaving anything that wide and fine or felting anything that thickly.  I had the disorienting experience of staring at a Pendleton pillow that I would have once seen as simply a pillow, and thinking, “That’s a broken twill.”  Weaving does things you.

Like, it makes you take a big side trip on the way home, even though that means you’ll face 1 1/2 hours of Portland rush hour traffic.

Meet Woodland Woolworks, a mail order company which also happens to run the ONLY real weaving supply store within a hundred-fifty miles of where I live:

(This is where I’d put a picture of their warehouse, if I hadn’t been rushing inside as soon as we got there, and Der Mann hadn’t been peeling out on the gravel on our way to beat some of the traffic as we left at closing time.)

You’d think there’d be a weaving store in Portland, but nope.  Woodland Woolworks is tucked away by some grain elevators in the middle of a small town called Carlton.  Past Hillsboro, sort of by Newberg.  I was there for the warping reels.  Since they carry almost every kind, I was hoping they would have some on display.  I wanted to get a sense of which were well or poorly constructed, weight, finish, collapability etc.

Unfortunately Woodland Woolworks doesn’t keep any reels on hand, just orders them as needed.  I wasn’t too disappointed because I was soon in a yarn and book frenzy.  The yarn store where we used to live carried a few odds and ends of weaving and spinning stuff, but there is a world of difference between that, and a place with cones lined up on all the walls, and shelves with most of the weaving books I’ve heard of.

The weaving room is one of three retail areas.  You have to walk through their packing room and office to get from one area to another.  Downstairs were knitting yarn, roving, and spindles.  Upstairs there were spinning wheels and accessories as well as weaving stuff.  And out on the enclosed loading dock?  Discounted knitting yarn and second-hand supplies of all sorts!

I was circumspect.  Now I kind of regret it.  If only I’d known about this place when I was looking for a rigid heddle loom or an 8-dent reed!  Der Mann went downtown for coffee while I raced from room to room, figuring out what was where so I could budget my dwindling 2 hours.

I started out with the books.  It is soooo much easier to tell if you want a weaving book or not when you can leaf through it.  You can tell a lot just by the sorts of pictures and drafts a book has, how many, and the amount (and tone) of the text.  I wrote down the titles of the books I’d like to own so I can order them when I’m ready to part with the cash.

That meant yarn came last.  I’d have bought more if I weren’t so rushed.  Woodland Woolworks’ unmercerized 8/2 cotton seemed surprisingly firm and smooth.  8/2 is chunkier than I prefer for kitchen linens, but I think I’ll really like this stuff when it’s woven up.  I had decided the best strategy was to buy a color I wouldn’t have known I liked unless I’d met it in person.  You can’t tell from the picture, but never did a color yell “1967” so loudly (in a good way) as this one.  It’s called “Old Gold,” which is completely inaccurate.  I would call it, “Willow-Bud Green on Acid, As Seen Through Rose-Colored Glasses.”  Or maybe just “Dusty Chartreuse.”

Another cone struck my fancy because it is exactly the color of unbleached linen.  There are a lot of hideous beiges.  You can never tell what you’re going to get with beige.  I think I’ll make some mock two-tone linen towels.

I also bought some lovely line linen.  They have very little Bockens in stock, just two small cubbies, but they did have a blue 16/2 I really liked.

The upshot is, I’ll have to go back.  There were a ton of different cellulose fibers, chinese silk (loved the silk noil, particularly!), and Jaegerspun.  Zephyr is on my wish list, and since it’s pricey I’d much rather not order it blind.  Also, a HUGE selection of UKI mercerized, if I ever go that direction.

But perhaps the best part of my visit was getting to weave on a Glimåkra countermarche.  I have never seen one of these looms outside of pictures. Woodland Woolworks has a 36″ Ideal (which is Glimåkra’s “compact” loom) set up for towels and . . . my goodness.  It was like meeting a movie star on the beach in their sweat pants holding a plastic bag of dog poo.  I tend to sigh over the big Scandinavian looms, especially when my own gives me trouble.  “Ooh, back-hinged treadles.  Ooh, so tall.  Ooh, hanging beater, I faint with longing at the thought of your featherlight touch.”

And yet something was very wrong with this loom!  It opened wonderfully big sheds compared to my Bergman, but I started wondering if they had got the wrong treadle assembly on it, because I got absolutely NO good from those sheds; they were trapped behind the beater!  That is to say, when I pushed the hanging beater back–even when it was hanging from the forward-most notch–it hit the shafts immediately.  There was almost no space between the fell and the beater.  I could barely squeeze the little Schacht shuttle through.  I pushed back he jack box, which slides freely on top of the castle, but that didn’t help because the treadles still pulled the bottoms of the shafts way forward.  Basically, adjusting the position of the jack box just put the shafts on a slant.  I fiddled with where the fell line was, but you need it within about 2″ of the center point of the beater’s arc, or the reed doesn’t hit it squarely.

I couldn’t see any way to adjust this Glimåkra that would give more room for the shuttle.  True, I only spent about 20 minutes with it, but I had been expecting better things.  I was also kind of surprised at the coarse grain and coarse final sanding of the wood.  Without its stage makeup, the Ideal just looked big and rough.

I expect there is a lot difference between the weaving experience on the Glimåkra Ideal, which is designed for compactness, and the Standard.  And of course there is a lot of difference between fiddling with a loom in a weaving store and owning one.  Still, I was able to leave with the pleasant feeling that, “Hey, I have a pretty good loom!  Warts and all, I wouldn’t trade it for a big lunk like that.”  That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like a bigger, better Scandinavian countermarche than the Ideal in addition to the Bergman some far-off day, but for a compact countermarche I doubt I could have done better.  My loom is almost as deep as the Ideal, for all it is so much smaller.

Mary's Peak, highest point in the Coastal Range

Mary's Peak, highest point in the Coastal Range

Empty Step

July 6, 2008

One of the best features of our duplex is gone.

Dobo isn’t dead, she’s in Tacoma, and that is a long way away.  She went to live with Thistledown’s mom.  We had warning of this, and were both surprised how much the prospect bothered us in the weeks leading up to her departure.  We are even more surprised how much we feel the lack now that she’s gone, because Dobo was possibly the most unmannerly cat we have ever met.

Dirty, diffident, prone to complaining, greedy, and frankly not all that attractive.  I’m sorry, there is just something about the splotchiness of a certain kind of calico that detracts from the natural grace of the feline form.  Breaks up the lines.  I would love a calico if I had one of my own, I’m sure.  They’re just not my first cat color choice.

But Dobo lived here, and we take what we can get with cats.  Der Mann is allergic, so a house cat is not an option.  We also grew quite fond of the 3 (respectively) brain-injured, feral, and thuggish barn cats when we lived in a rented farm cottage.  We courted the human-scorning cat next door at our last rental.  I guess we shouldn’t be so surprised that Dobo became a part of our lives.  Or at least a sort of homey hobgoblin haunting our carport.

Dobo is a cat with an eye for the main chance.  It was not enough to sit enthroned on her packing-blanket cushion atop our table in the car port, nor to lounge in her cardboard seedling box beneath.  No, whenever the door was was left open she had two methods of ingress: saunter toward it sideways as if she were really just heading toward her perch on the fence, then casually wander inside at the last minute; or make a lightning fast bee-line for the crack between the counter and the stove, which is almost always good for a few fossilized morsels.  If no one chased her out in the next 30 seconds, she was up on the kitchen counters.

We’d catch her at this and order her out, and she’d return each of our orders with a meow of irritable refusal.  After sharing the exchange for a few moments–but not until we’d resorted to stomping around and shoving her in that direction–she’d finally consent to walk toward the door as s-l-o-w-l-y as possible, making noises as if she were muttering under her breath at our stupidity all the way.  “All right, all right!  I’m going!  –*ssh*les.”

Thistledown calls Dobo a “he” even though she is female, because she has such a strong personality.  When Thistledown’s friend was looking after Dobo a few years ago, she bought Dobo a black leather collar with steel punk studs.  Thistledown left it on her, because it suited the cat so well.

Dobo is a serious hunter who prowled the vacant lot behind the house.  Rumor has it she’s brought down a squirrel.

Dobo likes dust baths.  She does not like to groom herself.

According to Thistledown, Dobo also enjoys shredding brand new sofa slipcovers in the middle of the night.

Dobo is not a lap cat.  She is too alert.  The tiniest noise, and she’s up on her feet, ready to go patrol the borders of her domain and (she hopes) kill something.  Very occasionally she will choose to assert her domination over you by letting you pet her while she perches unsteadily on your knee and digs her claws into your leg for purchase.  She has rusty purr.  I’d read about rusty purrs, but Dobo’s was the first I encountered.  There really is no other word to describe it: rusty, like a rusty, squeaking bedspring.

Dobo knows that humans are all about food.  Her seductive belly-baring and laconic greetings are all about food.  If the humans don’t provide a non-stop stream of food, she sees it as her duty to trick it out of them.

You can see how Thistledown might lose patience with Dobo-ownership, even though her two-year-old is crazy about the cat.  Last weekend we woke up to, “No cat go!  No cat go!”  Which sounds like I’m making it up, but that’s really what he was saying.  Grandma was taking the cat home with her.  I was surprised it didn’t get any worse.  I had expected a knock-down drag-out fit for sure!


After unsuccessful lap session

After unsuccessful lap session


Studiously ignoring one another

Studiously ignoring one another


Well, maybe a little

Well, maybe a little


But not for long

But not for long


I haven’t heard the little boy talking about Dobo since Saturday.  I wonder if he has already forgotten his weekday morning ritual of finding the cat in order to say goodbye to it when they leave the house.

Der Mann and I certainly miss Dobo whenever we go outside.  It’s like the duplex has lost its guardian spirit, and now it’s just an uncomfortable little hot-box we keep our stuff in.  I never realized what a dreary place it is to come home to.  Greeting the cat must have distracted me.  There is no reason to sit on the steps anymore.  If we aren’t watching Dobo keep tabs on the squirrels, or shooing her away from us when she is in the mood to cover us with cat hair and dirt from the driveway, what are we supposed to do there?  I don’t get to nag der Mann about his allergies anymore, either.  I don’t get to say “I told you so” when his nose and eyes start running.

There’s no reason to shut the door.

Garden Weekend

May 13, 2008

For starters:

Current project.  I’ve been meaning take a picture while this is still on the loom because I wanted to show the way the weft glints in the light.  Our living room is dark because it faces east and there are big conifers.  When I open the curtains in the morning there is nice diffuse daylight on the loom for just a couple of hours, which was when I took this picture, but the glints don’t show.  The light will be gone as soon as the Tree of Hell across the fence comes back into leaf.

When civilization ends, the world will be a forest of Tree-of-Heaven populated by rats.

You can tell I’ve got plants on the brain.  We went to two gardens this weekend: the Hulda Klager Lilac Garden and the Portland Japanese Garden.  I knew Mother’s Day was not a good time for these outings, but I thought we could beat the crowds at the Lilac Garden by going a day early.  It was teeming and trampled!  I would not have made the trip just to see those abused lilacs, so it’s a good thing I got to go inside the house.

Hulda Klager’s house wasn’t a typical Pacific Northwest Victorian or a typical farmhouse, but a kind of German-farmer marriage of the two.  Every room is attractively and generously proportioned–none of the Victorian habit of sticking an assortment of bump-your-head crannies next to great drafty parlours.  I noticed how well it makes use of passive heating and cooling: the transoms, window placement, open stairway, ceiling height, and a wonderful big “potting porch” transitioning to a side entrance!

The potting room was my favorite.  Hulda’s garden hat and grafting knife were there.  Her “grafting knife” was a hefty, much-sharpened pocket knife.  Her hat was a faded red Chinese-farmer hat made of cornhusks (bamboo leaves?) over a venting rattan base.

And I said, “Hulda has my hat!”  I’ve been looking for a rice-paddy hat for a long time.  A regular straw hat with a fitted brim gets sweaty and itchy.  I picked one up at a church yard sale, but it’s not nearly so nice as Hulda’s.

I didn’t bring my camera to the Lilac Garden, but I brought it to the Japanese Garden the next day.

Can you tell I hate taking pictures?  No?  Good.  It was so crowded, photography was not going to make much difference to my enjoyment.  Oddly, the fact that I left all the F.A.s and H.A.s* out of the frame means that I recorded a completely different experience from the one we actually had there.  If we lived in Portland we would buy a membership, then we could go often enough to figure out when it’s least crowded, and make it a regular place to walk.  I thought the azaleas would be peak this weekend, but they weren’t.  The garden is up a hill and in a bit of a frost pocket.  Maybe we’ll go back for the color.


*This is the code I devised so I could complain softly about them in public: F.A.= Fat Asses and H.A.= Hyper Asses.  Our asses are as fat as the next (and fatter).  By fat I refer not to size, but to the “shoving in front of you then standing still for no reason,” the “no physical or mental awareness of other bodies in the vicinity,” and the “group portrait photo-shoot while you wait” attributes of the asses in question.  Hyper Asses wrestle their stunned babies over steep gravel paths in strollers while talking loudly to their spouses in French.