Friday, February 6, 2015

simply weaving





 














-17ยบ this morning, and I'm in love with winter, day and night.  It's a wonderful time to weave,  when there is fresh snow and sun, the shop is bright and warm, and there is a faint scent of my geranium, if the sun is shining on the plants. I love to weave paper flowers on spaced linen warps,  on my old barn loom. Why I love to weave on this loom, though it is very rustic, a counterbalance, with just two shafts, is that it is very good for weaving plain weave and linen warps.  Simple weaves.

The loom was built by Norwegian immigrants to Coon Valley, Wisconsin, in the late 19th c. It was taller once, but its legs have been sawed. There are signs of a bench  that used to be bolted to the front, but it has never had a bench since I've owned it. I taught myself to weave on this loom, standing up, weaving rag rugs, and I am strongly, affectionately, attached to its mass and homely beauty. It's called a barn loom, because it looks like it belongs in a barn, like a large, steady draft horse, ready to work.

The solid warp beam, a tree trunk, grown on a Coon Valley hill over 100 years ago, and shaped into an octagon, has a 28" girth.  The distance from the back beam to the front is long, and there is a lot of room to keep the tension on the linen just right.  The overhanging beater, as it swings to beat the fell, makes  a satisfying thump. While I needle in the paper yarn rya knots, the soft crinkling rustle of white paper sounds like gifts being unwrapped.  A cup of cool water sits next to me on the breast beam, with a soft brush in it, to open the paper yarn petals. I feel like a gardener working in a winter flower garden. The lightness, and ephemeral appearance of the linen and paper garden is an unlikely product of the overbuilt loom that created it.

The flower petals in this are made of strong, Finnish paper yarn, I ordered from Tampere, Finland.  The paper yarn is threaded on a  blunt tapestry needle, and tied into the weave as it progresses.  I  also used Japanese paper chenille, mohair yarn, unraveled plastic tarps, and white linen in the knotting.

There is a story here, of course; but one I think I'll tell some other day. Traditional Finnish transparency weaving is what these come from, as well as Japanese suspended panel weaving that I have always noticed, and admired.

 When I weave paper and linen, in a grid like this, I think of windows, of air and light moving back and forth through the weaving,  past and future, memory and forgetting. The blooming is imagination, and possibility.  Sometimes the "blooms" are just 8 petaled flowers, but sometimes they  are more like explosions.  When I first started to make them, a few years ago, I wondered what I was making.  I thought they might be the frost covered windows in the coldest corners of our house.  But I change my mind, and find they hold many more meanings than that for me.  Weaving them carries me away. 

(I plan to enter this piece, Memory and Forgetting, in a Scandinavian art fiber exhibit, which features an exchange exhibit with a handicraft museum in Finland.  If accepted, it could fly to Finland next summer!)

Thursday, January 8, 2015

potholding




I'm amazed to read about the present, sweltering heat in the southern hemisphere, Australia, for instance, while staring into the teeth of this "Alberta Clipper" coming down from, well, the finger points at Alberta.  Thanks, Canada.

A wind accompanies this snow, and below zero temperature, a strong wind that whips up snow dust tornados that whirl up and across the  hay field, catching snow, loose leaves and twigs, sucking them high in a twisting vortex, before vanishing through the fence at the plum row at the top of the field.
Dramatic, but largely an illusion.

So. I am weaving potholders, a throwback to simpler times, days when I began weaving,  a
project of cutting rags and chaining them together, to weave into useful, and cheerful kitchen things.
A potholder like this will not look the same after 2 decades of  hard use,  potholding, but then neither does this (speaking of myself now) potholder look the same.  The rags here are cotton, cut at about an
inch wide,  the warp, 12/6 Swedish rug warp, black.  The sett is 10 epi, but  woven in doublebinding, an interconnected double-face weave, with two layers of rag, with only 1/4 of the warps showing on
each surface.  There are warp threads interwoven between the layers, and no fingers should ever feel heat.  This is a favorite weave of mine, and my brain feels like a big snow whirly of fresh
ideas while I'm at work.  Let us not despair, for we are human, and we each have imagination.
We can create what we can imagine.




Friday, December 19, 2014

ashes, ashes




It's icy here, so I dumped the whole can full of wood ashes on my paths and the driveway, and then put it to the test.  I didn't fall down and break my crown.

 Yes, I still prefer winter in the north. My friends are busily knitting their wool into things. I don't knit, but I love to see it done. I did once knit a sweater, on circular needles, but as I neared the bottom, I lost interest in the project.  Which did not deter me from wearing it for the rest of the winter, with the needles all dangling down - o, down - o, down -o, with the  needles all dangling down. (To be sung to the tune of Fox Went Out on A Chilly Night).






When the sky is clear,  I love to see bright stars in familiar constellation, glittering at night in cold, dry air. I love the crystallized world, the way the creek bubbles under ice, with an edge that forms and reforms overnight.  I look to see the shapes of leaves and grass in flowing water under the clear ice. I love the thick coats of fur on my cats, the stacked-full wood shed, the splitting block, the cold maul, which also serves to split a big squash, which I like to roast and eat, in winter, with butter.

I like my new, highly visible,  lime-yellow down jacket.

Happy winter solstice, and remember the ones who've left us. I light a candle for them in a
mason jar, when the sun goes down, and put it in the frozen fern bed beside the sauna.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

another day








I take a snowy walk, looking for what I'm looking for, but Mikey comes along. As usual, he wants it to be all about him.

The waste of a good warp section, a mistake I can't unmake, but I can't bear to throw away just yet.

Tomorrow, especially, I wish you will enjoy a good meal and the sweet company of your friends and family.


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

down to the river









Reading Annie Proulx' story, "A Run of Bad Luck" I found this sentence, " They pulled off
their muddy pacboots and set them on the newspaper behind the stove, hung up the wool jackets
that held the shapes of their shoulders, the bend of their arms...."

A weaver knows this idea of cloth that "holds the shape of their shoulders, the bend of their arms,"  and that the piece just cut off the loom, washed, dried, hemmed and trimmed is only partly finished.  The rest of the finishing is done by the person who uses it, and time.   How it is worn, walked on, which window it hangs in, which dog chews it, eventually shapes the textile, physically.  But there is something else, which has to do with feeling.  Some cloth holds our attention. If it was made with feeling, the weaver hopes by some small miracle, it expresses that.  We experience the feeling when we hold some cloth close, until we pass it to someone else, who also keeps it.  An antique quilt or rug or coverlet survives through generations. It comforts, protects, warms, carries, softens, beautifies,  absorbs, cleans, sanctifies, our daily human lives.  It shows us who we are, and where we have been.  Look at the knees of Bill Pike's (beekeeper) jeans!

It seems to me that these uses, physical and emotional,  become a part of textiles, and stay with them. Imaginative attachments, stories that can't be read, are tangible in the cloth.  We feel them. We add layers of meaning to them. The weaver's cloth is so raw and new,  and just the beginning of its story.
 

For the curious:  Writers' workshop is now over. I didn't improve significantly, but I did get a chocolate prize for perfect attendance!  Also,  in yesterday's election I voted for only one candidate who did win. I'm saddest that Wisconsin had  a chance to elect Mary Burke, who would have been the only woman Governor in the state's history, but instead over half of us chose the incumbent, which is the politest way I can refer to this result.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

naming


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Some days are better.  This was one of them.

The Amish have gathered corn into stately shocks along the ridge fields. The Amish school yard was empty today, but yesterday, young boys and girls in dark black capes, hats, pants, suspenders, and bright blue skirts, and emerald shirts, girls and boys together,  stood like pins on the little baseball field, in the glow of the sugar maple grove beside the school.  A girl was pitching, to a boy.  Another girl was on first. But this morning was cold and rainy, as bunches of Amish children walked to the  school along wet roads.  Most of the little boys still walked shoeless, with red, bare wet feet.

The night before last, I showed up for my 6th writers' class, and read what I wrote for the first time aloud to the small group. There were murmurs of encouragement. This may be my last formal engagement with education, in my life. I'm really bad at being a student.  But, I'm sure what I've learned will serve me well. I am sure I'll keep writing at fiction,  because I have nothing to lose. The adept writers in my class actually give me hope that I will make progress, if I persist.

Just off the loom is a  new batch of crying towels, each named after an aspect of tears, crying, sadness, joy, onions, or any occasion for tears.  So, they have a text, as well as a texture. "Water Works,"  "Spilled Milk (half full / half empty),"  "Father sighed, Mother cried,"  "Hang my tears out to dry," "When it rained down sorrow, it rained all over me,"  "Stop all this weeping, swallow your pride. You will not die, it was not poison.  Bob Dylan." The names are fragments of song lyrics, old expressions, the ways we talk about our small and large griefs.

Wash cloths, face cloths, sauna cloths, all belong to our daily, private ritual of putting on  a fresh face  to meet the public.  Crying towels are another acknowledgement of being human, of living with our sorrows.  Tears are universal.  My weaves are made to provide what textiles always have, comfort, warmth, memory,  protection, cleanliness and absorption. 

 My utility blanket, in two panels is one such cloth.  I wove it in my old familiar, Rosepath, with linen, wool, cotton rag, perle cotton, and raw silk and call it "Pot Calls Kettle Black," a name about naming.  Names attach themselves to the weaves while I'm weaving, my thoughts adrift.  The name belongs to the weave. 



 (Thanks to Harry and Barb in Dell for the pumpkin scene!)