Mata Ortiz Runner

May 28, 2013


If you are wondering what my hand-turned maple bowl is doing in this photo, the answer is that it is pretending to be a Mata Ortiz pot.  Mata Ortiz is a Mezzo-American revival pottery featuring clean forms and ornate surface decoration.  I wove this runner for a couple of Mata Ortiz fans. (The bowl is also there because I’m just that awfully proud of having found it at Goodwill for $4 brand new.  It’s the perfect shape to hold a ball of yarn, or for stuffing cut ends of thread into while weaving, and I’ve been using it constantly.)



Design constraints included the palette of the pots, the muddying effect of my putty brown sample warp, the narrow weaving width, the colors of cottolin I had on hand, and the fact that I ran out of one color mid-weaving!

Still, I found it really engrossing to design something so far outside the scope of what I’d design to please myself–to the point that I actually grew rather fond of it in the weaving.  Now my only beef are the proportions.  The central ochre section was longer in my sketches.  I ran out of that color four inches early; it shows.


Runner: Mata Ortiz

Completed: March 2012

Woven on Varpapuu Kothe Nordia table loom

Threading: 8-shaft rosepath, 17 repeats plus balancer and selvedges.

Pattern: Interleaved zig-zag twill from (draft #12247, reverse side up for slight weft dominance), with overshot motifs in borders adapted from #12408, and basket weave hems (or rather the closest you can get to basket weave in rosepath).

Warp: sample warp in putty brown 8/2 unmercerized cotton mill ends, and border stripes of “Polo” (the color of unbleached linen) 8/2 unmercerized cotton by Uki

Weft: 22/2 cottolin (Borgs and Bockens: ochre, orangey red, turtle green; Louet: pastel green), white 8/2 cottolin from Pacific Wool and Fiber, 3/2 mercerized cotton in cornsilk yellow, and Lily size 20 perle cotton in light bronze (as tabby weft for overshot border motifs).


Warp preparation: wound 12 yards and 5” by the single thread on warping reel with cross at both ends, cut in half for 6 yard and 2 1/2” warp, beamed 8 epi in 2.5 dpi raddle

Ends: 275 total including floating selvedges, 95 dark, 80 light

Sett: 22.5 (ended up being more like 22.75) epi, sleyed 2-2-2-3 in 10 dent reed

Picks per inch: 23-26

Width in reed: 12”

Woven width: 11 3/8”

Finished width: 10 3/8” – 10 1/4”

Length on loom: 53 3/4″

Woven length: 52”

Finished length before hemming: about 48”

Hemmed dimensions: 42 5/8”

Loom waste: 13.5” back, but next time stop at 15”

Finishing: normal warm wash and tumble dry twice, remove from dryer while still slightly damp both times, hot iron, 3/4” slip-stitched hems.

Conclusions: Close sett reduced draw-in, though it muted the weft colors a bit more than I wanted.  My beat was lighter for the first decorative border than the second, should have done more counting of ppi.  The overshot figures in the second border looked squashed after wet finishing.  Modified basket weave worked well for hems, but they are too thick.  Next time bind raw edge with seam binding and fold only once to hem?



Numbers Just Confuse Me

February 23, 2013

Last month I quickly made myself comfortable with the Varpapuu table loom and worked out the easiest way to follow drafts. When I showed him my color-coded levers and notation system and explained, “numbers just confuse me,” Der Mann laughed out loud. He has seen me planning weaving projects, the pages and pages of scrap paper scribbled with numbers and diagrams that drift around the house; he’s heard me mumbling numbers as I wind my warps.

What can I say? There are numbers, and then there are numbers. Some you need, others just mess you up.


So, I’m not up for much.  But early this spring I bought some real locker-hook canvas–as opposed to my allergenic home-made version–because I had some large projects in mind. It is a stiff 50% cotton, 50% polyester blend leno, heavily starched to keep the mesh from shifting.

I chose the 5 mesh version (five holes to the inch) because it was the smallest I could find.  I have no interest in working with rags, and I can’t imagine using anything but wide rags with the more common 3.75 mesh canvas.  Even then the work would come out sparse and coarse.

My first project was a sample trivet.  I have two hulking rolls of late 1960’s / early 1970’s “Sellgren Ryer” yarn that came to me with my loom: beautifully spun Norwegian wool from same town as my favorite cathedral.  My sample was to tell me a) if I liked the two colorways together b) if the yarn made a goodly-packed pile when worked through the 5 mesh canvas, and c) how quickly does locker-hooking use it up.  Do I actually have enough of this stuff for a rug?

All this I learned and more beside.  The rya yarn actually is a bundle of different grists and coordinating colors of yarns wound side-by-side.  When you’re fishing to hook a loop by feel on the underside of the canvas, it’s really hard to grab all the yarns at once.  Individual strands keep slipping free from the bundle, especially the the lace-weight ones.  I often had to undo my work to retreive them.

The other problem was one I didn’t expect.  As far as I know there is only one U.S. maker of locker hooks (crochet hook with a needle eye at the end of the handle) and they only come in one size.  Mine is aluminum, and what do you know?  It is TOO BIG to pull smoothly through the unforgivingly starch-stabilized 5 mesh canvas, especially when pulling a fat load of yarn.  Struggle, struggle, struggle all the way!  Maybe the steel locker hooks from England are a little skinnier?  I hope so.

All in all it was a most uncooperative trivet.  I chastised it sternly and swore never to touch locker hook to rya yarn again.

Though it did turn out wonderfully dense and spongy:

And no, I do not like the color combination.  It’s not horrible, but after a while I realized that putting these two yarns together manages to make the least of each colorway.  The subtle loden looks drab and the blue looks harsh.  Separately they are lovely.  If I use them (and it won’t be for anything locker hooked!), I’ll pair them with solids to play them up.  Those old large, multi-stranded, un-cut skeins of Paternayan would be about the best match for texture.  At the moment however I have no immediate rugmaking plans and refuse to trawl eBay or Etsy for antique yarn.  That way madness lies.

A Heaping Pile o’

December 20, 2011

-yarn.  Yes, I am throwing away a skein of 100% wool yarn.  Hard to say what kind.  It came from an animal, I know that much.  You can tell that much just by looking at it.

And now you will be asking how it is I retained such a fine thing to throw away for so long, thrower-awayer that I am!  (No, no.  Don’t try to stop me.)  Two reasons.  First, it is 500% harder for me to get rid of something entrusted to me in a touching faith that I will love it and use it than something I got myself.  Second, I really, really wanted to make it into a doily.  And give it to someone.  Perhaps just leave it someplace unobtrusive in their house to find later–a little Christmas surprise from the angels.

This isn’t the only yarn I am throwing away, but it is the best.  And that’s really saying something, since it came in one of those “I found this bag of yarn at a yard sale and I know you like yarn so here you go” bags of yarn.  About half the yarns in the bag were exuberantly textured hand-spuns stiff with lanolin and unidentifiable particles which may once have been alive.  The rest were less-valuable machine spun yarns that only appear spun by monkeys.  It’s hard to guess what their original owner may have had in mind, but I’m pretty certain they are leftovers from that part of 1970’s when people were making woven-and-macrame wall hangings on hoops, because you know there is simply no conversation-starter like poop on a hoop.

Working the Circle

November 12, 2011

Working the circle: inside out, and outside in.

Halloween Countdown: 15 days

About half a year ago I realized my nieces are just the age when playing pretend is most exciting.  This reminded me of how when I was their age, the very best pretend-play would sometimes turn electric.  It happened often when I could not only “be” whatever I was “being,” but wear their clothes!  I decided to make the girls a costume box.

The costume box of my youth was (is) a black tin trunk in my granny’s (the live one’s) basement filled with leftovers from my mother’s and aunts’ dress-up days.  Granny understands dress-up.  At nine she fashioned Barsoom costumes for herself and her friends from scraps of lamé and satin; they spent that whole summer running around each other’s yards pretending to be Edgar Rice Bourroughs’ Martians.  All through Granny’s childhood and teens, in fact, whenever she wasn’t sewing clothes and costumes for her dolls, she was sewing them for herself.  The Halloween costumes she made for my mother and aunts involved a yearly ritual of sewing, repurposing, and papier-mâché-ing on a par with Easter dresses for importance.  Later, when my aunts were teenagers and didn’t care, Granny gave away most of their old costumes and other dress-up things to a mother of young children who was going through a divorce–a gift the woman ever after credited with saving her sanity.  I liked to imagine what might have been in that Box Of Yore.  It must have been amazing considering what was left.

The tin trunk was (is) not big.  There were not a lot of clothes in it, but what there were stood out in magnetic strangeness by way of their antiquity.  In Granny’s costume trunk I found weights, weaves, fibers, and methods of decoration I understood had used to be part of people’s normal lives, but which I had never seen or handled in my own.  The first fabrics I loved were costumes.

Are you curious?  Well, there was my great-grandmother’s sheer Spanish shawl from the 1920’s, covered in satin-stitch peonies.  There was the embroidered silk dragon robe sent from China by Granny’s brother in the service, and the impossibly skinny blue-green moire 1950’s cocktail gown with a fishtail flounce, donated by the Cruella DeVille-like “Mean Aunt N___” who terrified my aunts as children.  There was the beautiful Japanese fan still in its disintegrating pre-war presentation box, the Moroccan finger-cymbals, the faux-Edwardian Mary Poppins dress with contrasting-lined bias-cut frills and shiny black buttons up the front.  My favorite as a small child was a Mexican peasant dress with different colors of rickrack going round and round–twirly!  Sadly, the rustling Renaissance “princess dress” of highly polished blue cotton was too big until I was quite old and then quickly outgrew it.  Its skirt was interlined with a stiffening buckram-like stuff, the lining was rose organdy, the sleeves trailed to the knee, and the square neckline was trimmed with perfect wee daisies–so typical of Granny’s loving attention to detail.

That is just a sample.

I could not and would not wish to duplicate the costume box of my youth.  Like Granny, I love attention to detail in garment construction; unlike her, I do not love to sew and would never have the patience to interline a princess dress.  Another issue is utility.  Granny’s costumes were too old and special to wear while tearing around outdoors, but tearing around outdoors is (I always found) a prerequisite for really good pretend-play.  I wanted my nieces to have costumes they could play with anywhere, anytime; yet which still had incorprated the variety of fabrics and real-garment quality of construction that made my Granny’s costumes so magical.

The best outfits for pretend play are ones with mixable pieces, so my other goal was to give the girls lot of components that lent themselves to being draped and tied and swapped out, as well as a few good base garments that fit them.  (Nothing is more frustrating than something pretty you can’t wear because it’s too big and looks all wrong and dumpy on you!)  Most of all, I wanted them to light up with a sense of dramatic possibility the way I would have done if someone had given me a big box of purpose-gathered costumes when I was their age.

So then I sewed and thrift-stored and laundered and mended for longer than I like to admit.  Now that all 26 pounds of costumes are in UPS truck speeding to my nieces, I will share them with you.

Starting with . . .

The Queeny Wizardy Robe

This fabric, which you can’t see properly, is a cross-dyed polyester taffeta that shines black one way and wine red the other.  It came from a set of curtains in a clearance pile at a discount store; I thought the taffeta would be perfect for a wicked queen or wizard.  The matching valance made up into a  pointy princess hat which you will see at a later date.

To cut this thing out I combined different views from Period Patterns No. 16: “Tunics, c. 650-1310 A.D.”–redrawing the pointed sleeves to be shorter, unlined, and more bell-like for lack of fabric.  I refused to set-in the sleeves the way the pattern directions directed.  Sewing the sleeves to the body and then sewing the underarms and side seams in one go with a clipped, reinforced curve worked just fine, so nyah!

Here you can see it with a big piece of iridescent chiffon I squared up and hand-hemmed along the raw edges for a Queen of the Night veil.

Kitchen Mural Towels

March 23, 2011

There are a lot of completed projects I haven’t yet blogged about.  Most are small.  In the last year (-ish? more?) I have woven a pick-up band on a heddle I constructed, done some inkle weaving–enough to get comfortable with my inkle loom–and made some sample braids on a foam kumi loom.  The kumihimo was so intriguing, and the kumi loom such an inefficient tool, I then spent some time working up a cheap recipe for a wood-not-nasty-plastic marudai and tama for people (me!) without power woodworking tools, using common thrift store ingredients.  The marudai works nicely.  I’m pleased with it (especially the “common thrift store ingredients” part), but it is a lot to explain and take pictures of.  I’ll have to work up my strength for that, also for my explanation of the heddle I made for pick-up bands.  But I guess I should start somewhere, so here goes:

These are for my aunt, to complement a mural she means to paint in her kitchen.  They got rumpled in my photo shoot.  I am debating with myself whether to simply press them smooth and pop them in the mail, or take them with me to visit a local potter by appointment, buy a vase to go with them, and send that too.  I have a specific vase in mind–carved black-eyed Susans with a carmely-mustardy glaze over the top, if she still has it.  I’ve been kicking myself for not buying it when I visited her stall at a Christmas bazaar.

I wound the warp for these towels ages ago, planned them eons ago.  My table loom couldn’t tension a linen warp properly, wouldn’t create a shed that supported one of my usual Swedish shuttles.  I was going to use a narrow stick shuttle as an alternative.  I began weaving that way, but the stick shuttle tended to catch up the wrong warp threads.  Since my weaving was riddled with errors as well as being slow, I let it sit.  Months later I came up with a much better solution: both a slight alteration to the loom and to one of my shuttles.  If you remove the poppana spool-holder from a poppana shuttle, it becomes a lovely lightweight double-sided ski shuttle that holds a lot of thread.  Turned edgewise, it parts weak sheds and skims through them like a champ, no careful “poking” needed, and no errors.  If I keep the table loom, this is probably the shuttle I’ll use with it.

I have pictures of the Vävmagasinet towels on which I based these, but I can’t find them.  If I do find them, I’ll explain my adaptations in a separate entry.

Towels: Kitchen Mural

Completed:  December 2010, wet finished January 19, 2011

Shafts: 6

Pattern: two-block jeans twill Adapted from “Lin-Fina” handtowels, Vävmagasinet Nr 1, 1986

Warp: red-orange (Klippan #317), daffodil yellow (Venne), and light umber (Klippan #1165) 22/2 cottolin, 33 wpi.

Weft: 22/2 cottolin in light umber for striped towel (Klippan #1165) and linen-colored cottolin for the checked, both 33 wpi.

Warp preparation: 5 yards and 17″ on reel, cut in half for 2 yd 26.5″ warp, wound singly (but could have done in threes), beamed in quarter inch raddle.

Ends: 402 (192 red-orange, 162 yellow, 48 umber)

Sett: 24 epi in 12 dent reedppi: 17

Width in reed: 16 13/16″
Woven width: 15 3/4”-16
Finished width: 14 3/4” linen-colored weft, 15” umber weft
Length of two towels on loom: approx. 56”
Woven length two towels:  54 5/8”
Finished length before hemming: 48 3/4”
Length each hemmed towel: 23” (x 2 = 46”)
Loom waste: 6” front (including filler picks to distribute warp), 12” back
Finishing: very warm machine wash, damp-dry on low in dryer, hot press. 1/2” Machine hems with preshrunk cotton twill tapes sewn in for hanging.

Conclusions: I had to sley this warp 3 times: first at planned 21 epi, then (because sample cloth was too loose) at 24 epi, and a third time to correct a mistake.  The 8/2 putty-brown cotton (32 wpi) weft I’d planned to use for these was also a no-go.  The color was too desaturated and cold to bring out the interactions I wanted with the warp.  Instead I used matching umber cottolin for the striped towel, and linen-colored cottolin for the checked–fearing I’d run out of the umber if I attempted a second towel with it.  What with sampling at the beginnings and end of the warp and retying it twice, 2 yards 26.5” was barely enough for two towels.  They also turned out much narrower than I wished since I’d reduced the planned width of the warp by one full color sequence for fear of running out of yellow thread, then decided to increase the sett.  I’d have loved to have enough of this warp to make a runner in the pattern of the darker towel.  Is this a sign I should stop designing projects that use up leftovers?

To make the hems less bulky, I wove 2 picks of tightly packed sewing thread where I wanted each interior fold line.  After wet finishing I removed the picks of sewing thread and pressed the first fold of each hem along the “score” made by the missing thread.  This worked well.

No need to pre-shrink cotton twill tape, as it stretches.

Next time I weave jeans-twill towels with cottolin, I would prefer a slightly higher sett for crisper towels–25 or 26 epi would probably do it–though these were fine as they were.  On the other hand, a set of 24 but with thicker weft might provide more color interaction between warp and weft.  As would using weft of an intermediate hue/value somewhere between the extremes in the warp.


June 23, 2010

I Confess is my favorite Hitchcock film.  And I loved Robert LePage’s tribute, The Confessional, almost as much.  However I am not nor have I ever been a Catholic.  Whence this urge to lay bare the sinful secrets of my blogging heart?

Until now my policy for blog awards has been to give the awarder my sincere and humble thanks, but not post the award.

This one is from Damselfly, though.  I am embarrassed to say so, since I almost never comment on her blog, but I suspect she is very close to the person I might have been if (product of a crazed sociological time-travel experiment) I had been born in Canada at the same time she was, had had kids, possessed a broader range of textile interests/talents, and was simply an all-around cooler lady.  Damselfly, I even used to wear the same hairstyle as you.  For years.  Weird.

So here is the Award.  It is tardy because I have been doing huge works, and sick with the flu, and not reading blogs.

And here is the homework that goes with it.  Trapunto tells all.

10 Little-Known Things About Me

1. I have never once shaved my legs.  At age 13 or so I divined that shaving my legs would mean opening a Pandora’s box of constant maintenance–legs have a lot of surface area, leg stubble is scratchier than natural leg hair–and I decided I just didn’t want to go that way.  I don’t think hairy legs look particularly nice (on me), so my shapely calves have not seen the light of day since.  Knee socks, tights, trousers.

2. I am a rosy vampire.  My complexion is pure white and red with almost no yellow in it.  When I was a toddler my family jokingly called me the polar child and claimed I had fur-lined skin.  Sun does me in almost immediately.  A normal summer day where everyone is galloping around talking about the gorgeous weather leaves me stumbling in a state of near heat-prostration.  People see how flushed (or pale) I am and ask me if I’m sick.  But I will happily slog for miles in a chilling drizzle.  Direct sunlight hurts my eyes and gives me headaches.  A few years ago an ophthalmologist who was quite surprised at my pupils’ failure to dilate normally said, “you don’t like bright light much, do you?”  She was right, but I hadn’t known until then it was a physical anomaly.  I blame my Scandinavian forebears.

3. I think sunglasses are astoundingly rude.  Take them off when you’re in company.  It’s awful trying to speak to people when you can’t see their eyes.  Like talking to the Borg.  I wear hats because they shade my head as well as my eyes.

4.  I am thirty-four.  This may be news to you because I write like a 84-year-old.  Or maybe a 134-year-old raised from the grave to spout antique idiom mixed willy-nilly with modern slang.  Hey.  I kind of like that.  (Not the idea of being a zombie, but of channeling an Edwardian writing ghost.)  Another reason my age is a little-known fact is that I look a lot older.  For example, when I was thirty-two my yoga teacher–a former ballet dancer who and had seen mine and all manner of bodies from all angles for years and years–said rhetorically, “and you’re in your early forties, right?”  And I replied, “mid thirties” because I didn’t want her to feel embarrassed, although technically thirty-two is early thirties.  This kind of over-consideration for others’ feelings is typical of me.

5.  Weaving is not my passion.  I love it, it fascinates me, but it was something I decided to do when I couldn’t do other things.  I often feel like a bit of a fraud blogging about it at all.  It’s great to hear you talk about your feelings for your weaving, but also peculiar, because it mirrors how I feel about other things–not the visual arts/crafts.

6.  Which isn’t to say I don’t care deeply about them.  I almost ended up going to art school (to study illustration) instead of to college.  What changed my mind?  A single session held by a high-profile art college.  I went to the local hotel where they were doing a presentation / meet-and-greet to attract all the prospective students in the region.  I was mortified by the mixture of self-importance and inarticulate naiveté in the presenters, the student work they showed, and the guests alike.  These were mostly high school students.  I would probably just laugh at them now, but at the time I realized (correctly) that art school was a bad place for me if I couldn’t stand being around artists.  I still can’t.

7.  I am acronym blind.  That is how I think of it, anyway; I’ve never come across anyone else with the same condition.  What I mean is that I am incapable of extrapolating the terms behind even the commonest acronyms.  It leads to awkward moments in conversation.  I am also constitutionally incapable of following/doing spoken arithmetic.  Numbers have to be on paper or they mean almost nothing to me.

8.  For years I studied classical piano–through my freshman year of college, in fact.  (I forget this about myself sometimes.)  I was very bad at it because my eye-to-brain-to-finger nerve hookups were simply too slow for technical fluency, no matter how hard I practiced.  This also meant I could never manage to sight-read properly, so I was no use as an accompanist.  I wish I had given it up much sooner.

9.  Der Mann and I raised Indian Runner ducks for several years.  These un-pettable pets hated and feared us as much as they entertained and delighted us–Runners are like that.  If we ever get land, and can figure out a way to protect them from predators, I am sure we will end up with another flotilla of ducks.

10.  As a kid and teenager I had a natural talent for sports that required coordination, but found them all so tortuously boring (in the case of team sports, just tortuous) that I never pursued any.  Or does baton twirling count as a sport?

And now I have a final confession, off the record: for the past six months I have been keeping another blog.  It is a book blog.  It started when I realized I was having less and less to say on The Straight of the Goods as no goods were being straightened–or woven, but that I still needed the kind of total distraction writing a blog entry provided when I was too worn-out to do anything more productive.  Which times are many.  I swear I never intended to let The Straight of the Goods lapse!  My apologies to whatever loyal soul may yet be reading this, because I haven’t been commenting much on other people’s weaving blogs.  It’s easiest to talk about whatever I’m most engaged with (That I don’t hate.  Which is why you have been spared hearing about most of my real life.), and I am always engaged with my reading.

Still, I miss you guys.  Sigh.

You are all beautiful bloggers, and I would like to hear all your little-known things.

Boo! Hiss!

May 18, 2010

It’s not possible to weave 22/2 cottolin on my table loom. Even when the warp is at maximum tension, the floor of the shed is too loose. A thrown boat shuttle drops through it every time.

So what am I going to do with my towel warp?

Poke a stick at it.

I tried several old stick shuttles meant for rags. This is the lighter stick shuttle that came came with my rigid heddle loom. It worked better than the rag shuttles, which isn’t to say it works well. Every pick is like threading the eye of a needle.

This will be an exercise in patience.

Dorothy told me she doesn’t do linen warps on her table loom because it’s too short to handle them. I thought the cotton in this yarn would give it enough stretch to work. That was silly. Of course the least stretchy fiber in a mixed yarn will be the one that has its way. The stretch in my part linen warp for the checked peach runner was all thanks to the plying, not the cotton.

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.