Dear Challenged:

(No, wait a minute.  That sounds terrible!)

Ahem.  Dear Challengees:

I have no weaving to show you. I do have:

1. A pair of linen trousers.

2. A crewel embroidery book from the library with excellent diagramatic instructions, particularly for making “spiderweb roses.”

3.  A very old book of Swedish weaving drafts that belonged to the original owner of my Bergman loom, and someone else before her.

4.  Shiny Japanese crochet linen.  I’ve been saving it for the perfect weaving project.  Subtle colors.  Silver gray, a sand/pale khaki, and an indescribable blue that makes me sigh with pleasure.

5.  A table loom on which it is impossible to weave linen.

6.  No discretionary time.

7.  No energy.

8.  No foreseeable increase in either item 6 or item 7.

So there you have it, Pics to Picks Peeps.  Challenge unmet.

My plan was to construct a small panel by stretching the trouser linen over a wooden frame, weave a latice out of the three colors of linen using a draft from the Swedish book, lay it over the trouser linen panel, and embroider climbing crewel roses through it in shades of pink, coral, apricot, and white.  An echo of the lace gloves and ribbon roses in my inspiration photo.

I’m not a sketcher.  Or rather, I do all my sketching in my head.  I rejected and refined different versions of my project in quite a bit of detail in there.  Short of whatever different directions my materials might have taken me once I had them in hand, the concept was complete.

When will it materialize?  I can’t say.  My life is not weaving friendly or anything friendly at the moment.  This isn’t a complete surprise.  I had reservations about participating since I knew how these spring months (Northern hemisphere) always evaporate into a haze of imperatives.  I signed up anyway.  And it was fun to work from Linda’s photograph.  I discovered that when I designed from a starting place someone else chose, it made everything less serious.

Perhaps the most enjoyable part was the moment I stopped trying to construct a draft, remembering that I already had just the sort of thing I wanted in the old Swedish book–a “mosquito curtain.”  Translating the instructions into English was like a scavenger hunt for words.  My Swedish dictionary is in a box (one of those on the book shelves behind the loom in the photo), but I doubt it would have helped me with the odd weaving usages any more than the online dictionaries did.  One way or another, I’m going to weave this sucker.

Thanks for inventing and hosting Pics to Picks, Meg.  You’re a peach.  And thanks for the pictures, Linda.  No inspiration is ever wasted–contrary to appearances!

Warp and weft: light blue 40/2 cotton

Reed: 100 dents per 10 cm

In the reed leave alternate dents empty.  In alternate dents, thread alternately  3 threads from the second and third shafts and one thread from the first shaft.


Last weekend I got my envelope of inspiration for the Pics to Picks challenge that has been created and orchestrated by Meg of Unravelling.  I sent three pictures to a weaver in New Zealand.  Mine came from Linda of StoneLeafMoon in Massachusetts, and here they are!  I got a bonus picture too.  Would that make it a baker’s trio?

To a former duck owner, the fancy fowl (some kind of gamecock?) with the black and white lapped fish-scale pattern in its feathers suggested not only a repeating pattern in high contrast, but also texture and heft.  Something sleek and firm.  The idea of picking up one of our football-shaped runner ducks and tucking it under our arm was always as tempting to Der Mann and me as it was distasteful to the duck.  We never did it.  We liked them in proportion to their indifference.  Some evenings we would each take a glass of wine outside,  sit on the old cement silo foundation in the duck yard, and watch the ducks do duck stuff.  Ducks don’t do much, but they do it with gusto.  It’s better than TV.

I love the pipe-smoking African musicians in their elaborately folded cloth headgear.  The angular folds are a lot like something out of an early Renaissance painting, the kind where the artist was showing off his skill with drapery. On the other hand, the sepia filter and heavy shadows and smoke suggest caves, spirits–spookiness.

The grayish printout is a foggy pasture or lawn with a single tree and a thorny bush.  Trust me, since you won’t see them on your computer screen, but this one has great muted colors.  I like the way the details of the bush in the foreground emerge more sharply out of the mist, and the tree is just a solid presence in the background.  It reminds me of eastern Massachusetts, where I lived for four years.  Of course maybe it isn’t a photo Linda took locally, but there were places Der Mann and I walked with scenes like this.

The fashion photo is the one that completed my inspiration circuit.

That is to say, I had some vague ideas of making something girly and embellished in the back of my head.  Probably since taking a Japanese craft book of crewel embroidery out of the library and unearthing some tatted handkerchiefs when I cleaned out my dresser.  The picture gave me a direction.

There are so many delightful textures and ornamentations.  Just look: the rippling lambs-wool of the jacket, and the thickly layered satin bows on the collar and cuffs studded with satin roses–all in black to make the most of their handle-ability without the distraction of color.  The net gloves–gloves that are both a texture themselves and leave the fingers wearing them able to perceive texture through the net.  And the purse: ruched, satiny, fringed, cinched, buckled, and bowed.  And rose colored.  And pale yellow.  Pretty much every traditionally female costume effect!

What interests me about purses is that they are one of the few accessories that are made to be carried, not worn.  Their femininity is not the same as that of a feminine dress.  The purpose of feminine gown, shoes, or piece of jewelry is to to make a woman feel feminine, and also attract people to her-in-the-dress.  She becomes what she puts on.  It’s a sort of magic cloak.  Sometimes a deception.

A purse is one part of her outfit that a woman can appreciate as separate from herself.  (Until the middle of the 20th century hats did something like this, too.  Sad, sad, sad to be born in a post-hat world.)  A magic cloak doesn’t work its spell on the one who wears it, only the ones who see her in it.  A dress on a hanger can’t inspire the same kind of abstracted admiration that a purse does.  I think, to appreciate a dress fully, you have to imagine it being worn–either by yourself or someone else.  You don’t have to do this with a purse.  A purse is made to attract and please the woman who carries it as much–or more–than anyone else.  It’s sort of her independent sidekick, like one of those annoying talking animals that run around with the heroine in a feature length cartoon.  It is also functional.  When a woman sees a purse, she sees what it can do for her.  What it will hold–or fail to hold in the case of an evening bag.  How much and what kind of things a purse is meant to hold can start a whole story about where she will go and what she will do with it.

I’ve never carried a purse because I like being able to use both hands and not worry about setting something down and losing it.  The exception is special occasions, when I’ve worn nice clothes that don’t have pockets.  To me a purse means a lack of pockets, or pockets too dinky to hold anything–those are the worst.  If you want to push it further, a lack of pockets is a good representation of the inequality of the sexes.  “No pockets for you.  You don’t want to look fat, do you?”  or  “Okay, we’ll give you some pockets.  But just for looks.”  And men, no matter how much they might enjoy them, don’t get to carry handy little decorated bags that are just big enough to hold a few necessities unless they are willing to put up with the stigma of being a guy with a purse.

When I carry a purse it’s always an obscure weight on my mind, a burden.  I can carry what I need in my hip pockets; just my wallet and keys.  Sometimes I also carry a handkerchief, a measuring tape (clips on the outside), a bit of paper, and a small pencil.  If I need more than that, I pack a tote bag and leave it in the car.

I like purses.  I admire them in stores or on women’s arms, though never so far as to want one–for that, I’d have to imagine myself lugging it.  When I was a small child my granny’s purse was like bottomless portable toy box.  From fabric scraps to folding combs to mini tape-measures to face powder and collapsible drinking cups to carefully wrapped half-pieces of Trident chewing gum.  It also weighed about 10 pounds.  Later, she switched to a small front pack to spare her shoulder.

“So you’re going to make a purse.”  Well, no.  At first I thought I might, but not anymore.  My idea so far is one of layers of old-fashioned decoration.  I’m thinking of what occured when women took lots of trouble to make something beautiful with a nod toward utility that was more reflex than anything else.  A secret handshake.  The password would have been something like “guest towel” or “needle book” or “luncheon set” or “bridge pad cover.”  But if, hearing the those words, you simply pictured playing bridge or hosting a luncheon, you would have been missing the point.  A purse doesn’t quite work for me in this context though it is certainly something I would never use.

I love those carefully starched and folded old luncheon sets that have never once seen a table top in 70 years!

Whatever I make, I think there will be flowers or possibly rosettes.  And a net.  And I think the net will be woven.  I’m looking at drafts.

Cat butts: they're everywhere you want to be.