Wednesday, April 1, 2015

no fooling

Finished!  Now I'm on my bike, singing, all the way up to Bloomingdale!  Soon enough I'll come back to my bare workshop, empty looms, and start in again. 

There was an old man named Michael Finnegan
He grew whiskers on his chin again
They fell out and then grew in again
Poor Old Michael Finnegan
Begin Again!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

march wind

Today winds are blowing out of the South.  Soon maple sap will be dripping in the woods,  syrup boiling in sugar houses, and trout season. It will still snow, a spring blizzard or two.  The cold has been extraordinary this year, but it's a dry cold. I know I'll miss it.

Last week, it was still terribly cold, but somehow I talked myself into walking up the road to the quarry, wearing an outfit that made use of a wool blanket and a large safety pin, on top of my usual winter regalia.  Even so, my eyes were teary from the cold, and on the way back my eyelashes actually froze together.

Coming into my driveway, I had a sudden, distinct memory of my kids when they were 12, and 8, and 5, sitting on our back porch on a spring morning,  playing with a box of kittens. It may have been that the light was similar, that brought the image back to mind.  I thought of myself back then,  40 yrs old,  frustrated and desperate for the family to "grow up"  so I could have some time to myself, some time to weave.  I also remembered that even as I thought it, I knew I'd miss days like that, when they were young, playing on the back porch in the sun. It was such an intense remembrance that I couldn't shake it all day.

They are grown up children now, each living her/his own adult life.  I might be able to persuade them to come back and play with a box of kittens on the back porch, but sooner or later, they'd want to go back to their jobs and homes. Having children, for me, has been the experience of putting myself out of the center of my  own life, loving human beings so hard that it often hurt, and still always, always encouraging them to leave me, little by little.  That's a pretty tricky thing to manage, emotionally.  We want to keep who we love close,  usually.

Well, I got through that day without a tear. I wasn't sad. I have my workshop, full of projects and good looms, with good warps on them, and more to come.  I am so fortunate.  I have what I only dreamed of on the back porch with those kids that morning.  I have what I hoped for then, and better.  After all, I still have those kids, who are adults you'd like to know, if you knew them,  and I am free to work.  I am 24 years older, a lucky woman.


Item: In case you haven't seen it, Vibeke, the vivacious Norwegian knitter, tea and poetry lover who writes  A Butterfly in My Hair, is having a Month of Giving on her blog right now.  She has interviewed artists on the subject of gifts and giving, and asked each artist to contribute a gift each day in the Month of Giving.  Leave a comment on her blog for any of the gifts you'd like a chance at winning.  In a few days, one of my rag pot mats will be offered, with a small interview. I chose to give away the pot mat because Vibeke is such a great tea lover, and I imagined a hot tea pot sitting on it. If you'd care to read, comment, and enter to win, please do. There's lots of pretty things, and interesting people to meet over there. 

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


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.