“I Have a Beaver Problem . . .”

“I Have a Beaver Problem . . .”

This was the statement that my husband made to the very suspicious dispatcher at our local animal control center as I was unhelpfully and immaturely giggling helplessly in the background. But we did!  We have a very old 3 story barn that is built into the side of our road.  There is an odd sub-basement in part of the barn that we think was used as a kind of manure catchment area. It is composed of 5 foot-high concrete walls, and the odd part is that there isn’t an opening which one would think necessary to get the manure out. Anyway, it is an “attractive nuisance” for local wildlife because little critters find their way in, but then can’t get out.  We discovered this years ago (by following our noses) when we found several desperate skunks trapped. We created a ramp for them to get out and haven’t had a problem since . . . until two day ago.  Fiona was losing her mind, and dragged my husband back to the aptly dubbed (by my son) “skunk dungeon”, where he found two frightened and desperate beavers.  They are BIG, and couldn’t or wouldn’t use the skunk ramp to escape.  Hence my husband’s call to animal control.  After a day spent lowering buckets of water and tender birch limbs to the forlorn pair, a team of heroic animal control officers came to the rescue.  Getting two angry, 50lb beavers out of a concrete enclosure with no door wasn’t for the weak of heart. One of the officers started by using one of those dog-catching “catch poles” with noose-like loop on one end to catch the female beaver, but she yanked it right out of his grasp forcing him to climb into the dungeon. Yikes!! Anyway, after quite a bit of wrangling the two were freed and the male dashed right back into the marsh at high speed. The female was strangely hesitant to follow, so we searched high and low for beaver babies and found none – maybe she thought the dungeon was a potentially safe home, especially with food delivery . . .

In weaving news, I just finished teaching a beginning weaving class at WEBS.  What a wonderful crew of new weavers.  It is so much fun to be a part of someone’s first steps into the wonderful world of hand weaving. Even after all these years, I feel such enthusiasm for the whole endeavor, and am elated when I meet new recruits.  Of course my dark side emerges, and I find the creepy ditty from the oh-so-horribly-retrograde 1930’s horror movie Freaks that I saw in the 70’s playing in the back of my mind, “we accept you one of us, one of us, one of us . . . .”

This was a sample scarf I made as a demo for our final project – a 4-shaft twill scarf using alpaca-silk.  I played with using multiple rows of Philippine edging instead of fringe.  I like the knitted look.

And I used some mill-end slubby, singles from WEBS in a warping demo for a friend from TX.  I just used an old favorite draft for the demo, but the singles added some pep that I like. They also made the 10″ wide (in reed) scarf 5″ wide when washed.  Serious springiness!

And on Easter Sunday, with no small children or grandchildren, sigh!  (do you hear that sigh kids?), I gave myself my own version of a spa-day, stayed in my PJs and wove some napkins on my rigid heddle until dinner time when we had a lovely Easter dinner (I did change out of my PJs for dinner – just so you know).

I’ve been experimenting with a few more of the “cowl herd” – different size yarns and block arrangements.

And in an epic fail, I tried one in a finer Malabrigo, 4 yards , un-skeined, wound, threaded,sleyed, wove, washed, and washed, and washed, in hotter and hotter water with more and more soap, then put it in the washer, then put it in the dryer . . . and only then did I look at the label. You guessed it- superwash. DOH!!!!!!

And I put Fiona on a pedestal

Ans spied some fungi

My fungi hunting got me into hot water (or cold water) because while trying to take a picture of a particularly interesting specimen on a fallen branch that was precariously poised over a vernal pool, I dropped my phone into the pool!  I had to jump into the deceptively-deep pool to retrieve it, filling my boots with very cold water, and sending me squelching dejectedly home without any audio to keep me company. I have to hand it to Apple though because even though my speaker didn’t work, my phone still did, and after a day of healing it completely recovered! I scanned my camera hoping for an accidental underwater shot – no luck . . . too much to ask?

And on to plain weave. I love it, I have always loved it, and though I can’t keep complex interlacements from creeping into my fevered brain, I am a plain weave woman at heart.

Here is a series of hemp and linen towels that I just finished hemming.

And I have another series just off the loom, ready to be cut apart and pressed.  I planned for 6, wasted a little warp with a tie-up error mid-warp, and finished the 6th towel by the skin of my teeth.

Happy weaving, happy spring, and if you aren’t already, we will make you one of us . . . .

And I had to edit this post to add this gem I just saw on FB.  Listed as Princess with Weaving Wheel. The FB poster Heather Hutchinson added, “maybe I’m doing it wrong . . .” and made me spew my coffee.

The Foxy Weaver

I had a lot of time to think on my drive to and from Memphis recently (over 40 hours on the road by myself – I knew I had gone a little loopy when I heard this sentence from my audiobook, “she felt as frail as a week-old baby” as “she felt as frail as a weak, old baby” and couldn’t stop giggling for half a state), and one of the things that was rolling around in my untethered mind was how weavers are so camouflaged. I have been teaching quite a bit around the country, and one of the things I have noticed as I have traveled from Winter to Spring, from mountains to plains, rural to urban is that weavers, who are of course a diverse lot, have something in common (other than a bit of fiber obsessiveness), and that is that they always surprise me. One of the great pleasures I encounter in my workshops is that I get to meet people who may on the surface be, like me, fairly unassuming middle-aged women, but the minute I have a chance to talk, I find these amazing depths. Depths of accomplishment, adventurousness, experience, intelligence and humor.  In one of my recent classes, I met a woman, as nice as could be, provider of delicious baked goods, conservative in dress, but who made the most sharp and hilarious comments as she sat sedately at her loom, and when it came to color, she was a complete renegade! It reminded me how important/wonderful it is to over-turn my own assumptions.  My kids “help” me with this all the time, but somehow it is even more surprising and delightful to have someone my own age send my unconscious generalizations/prejudices toppling with a sly aside or a revelation about professional accomplishments or astounding adventures.  It makes me love my weaving brethren (sistren) even more to know that these women who may look to the world like kindly grandmas inoffensively knitting on the porch are smart, rebellious, creative, hilarious powerhouses who handle their complicated lives with competence and sharp intelligence.  So be aware and beware – what may look like a brood of hens is actually a skulk of foxes!!

Fiona’s favorite odorama

Fooling with fulling

Tiny bobbles

Hemp Spider weave

Merino scarf, pre-bath

Amazing Memphis mamas

Lotsa looms!!

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My husband has (once again) supplied me with my blog title. . .   I have received some recent input from a couple of young relatives in the realm of my social media presence (such as it is) to the effect that my site is old fashioned, no one blogs anymore (good news since my posts have been so spotty:) and I have to be on instagram.   I have been thinking about updating my site , but I need to carve out some (a lot) of time to really think about and work on it. The style that my young advisee likes it visible on quite a few websites. It is severe, lots of white, lots of empty space.  I actually love the serene look of the sites he showed me, but I am not sure the textiles I make will work in it.  I am a fan of warm, saturated colors, cozy, fabric-y spaces with lots of texture. But I am game, and will start thinking hard.  Input welcome.

I did take the step of starting an instagram account. When I told my husband, he said, “that probably means that instagram is on the way out, instagram-ma.”  My most ardent supporter! But I have been having fun looking at all the amazing weaving being done by yes, young! weavers. Now if I can just figure out how to tag . . .

IMG_0948Winter is showing her beautiful, fierce face around here, and Fiona and I are trying to figure out how to enjoy her while keeping our toes intact.  I recently acquired a pair of Kathoola Micro spikes for my boots and they have been incredible.  Fiona and I have been out in all forms of winter-y precipitation with no fear of her dragging me off my feet, as she snow dives.  It is fun to see, writ large in the snow all the little critter trails that drive her mad.  In other seasons her leaping and sniffing seems loony and random, but now I can see all the woodland activity that her nose shows her all year round.

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In weaving news, I have been prepping for teaching beginning Weaving at WEBS starting in March, re-training myself to do things the way I learned instead of the idiosyncratic way I have developed over the years.  That means returning to the warping board after years of reeling!  It has been interesting, but amazingly slow to re-teach my “old dog” self.

I have also been working on some rep pillow for the Fall edition of HW.

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First try . . .

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Second try . . .

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Done!, but I will now refer to on-loom rep as “fake news” because (and I did read about this . . . but . . .) the on loom version which one meticulously squares, relaxes when off the loom a lot! Resulting in some oval-y circles.

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Got it right in the sample, and then messed with it during the weaving – damn me!

 

I have also been working on a herd of cowls.  These were inspired by a beautiful garment I saw while watching a Hunger Games video with one of my son’s art school friends.

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And to cap the winter fiber fun off, I participted in a fabulous Dimity workshop held at our town library and run by (who else) the inimitable Ute Bargmann.  We had a week-long dimity fest, and the capper was when we were moving looms out of the library in fear for our lives as a massive ice floe hovered over our heads – we ran for our cars (carrying looms!).IMG_0883

Lovely winter . . .IMG_0899    Not Fiona’s, but whose?IMG_0926

And I got a turned Ms & Os off the loom only for it to be rejected by my product tester.IMG_0965

How Did It Get So Late So Soon

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How did it get so late so soon? Its night before its afternoon. December is here before its June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?

Dr. Seuss

My husband and I often have chats about time, and how the nature of it sees to change so dramatically as one ages.  The holidays bring on a “What? I just took the tree down. How can it be time to put another one up?”  This sense of the compression of time has been exacerbated this year by a glimpse at the date of my last blog post. September? How can that be?  But it can be apparently, and there have been many wonderful weaving adventures compressed within that compressed few months.

I got to travel up to Chautauqua, NY, and work with a wonderful, lively, talented  group of weavers, and visit the original Chautauqua (on Lake Chautauqua) that was the start of the Chautauqua educational movement, which Theodore Roosevelt called, “the most American thing in America.”

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I was able to host a weaving retreat for some of my best weaving buddies on Cape Cod.

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I was able to partake of the crazy beauty of the Smokies in (cognitive dissonance) honky tonk Gatlinburg while teaching at Arrowmont. This is particularly poignant for me considering the terrible fire that has swept through Gatlinburg, damaged the Arrowmont campus, and destroyed the houses of dear friends since then.

img_0302 My teaching assistant and traveling buddy, Emily Walsh Gwynn looking out at the mountain view.img_0326 Samples woven by the wonderful/creative/open-hearted Arrowmont studentsimg_0327Taking a break for some goofiness after epic weaving marathon

I was able to spend time in the woods with my trekking partner Fiona.img_0442 Misty morning woodsimg_0131Color inspiration fungiimg_0475 Massachusetts looking unlike itself . . .img_0473 Strange November blooming Yarrow

I was even able to do some weaving . . .img_0457 img_0386 img_0200

And see two mortal enemies become friends over the course of a sweet, sweet family holiday pile-in. Gives me hope . . .

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And as we entered the crazy holiday scramble, I was able to spend a week sewing (sew fun!) at Vavstuga with a troupe of old and new friends.img_0510 img_0526

Looking back at the last few months, and how the time has “flewn”. I feel so fortunate to have the world of hand weaving for such vivid and varied inspiration, challenge, experience and companionship.

 

Head, Heart, Hand . . . Heart, Head, Hand . . . Hand, Heart, Head . . .

I am seeking. I am striving. I am in it with all my heart.” Vincent van Gogh

In an (recently) unprecedented period of calm, I have been able to get 5 of my looms warped, and a couple of blankets woven.  One of the warps is a stash busting experiment with 8-shaft double weave using a very fine silk noil, and a very fat brushed alpaca, one of the warps is a 18-shaft deflected doubleweave, one is a 4-shaft, mohair throw in plain weave, and one is a transparency on the rigid-heddle and finally a pick-up dog collar on my inkle loom.  When I look at the projects I am working on, I am reminded of something (I may have mentioned before) that David Johnson of the Rocky Mountain Weavers’ Guild said to me while I was teaching there.  He said, “you have to have your head, heart and hands balanced in everything you create.”  My interpretation of this is that you need to balance your aesthetic/creative impulse (heart)  by both honing your skill (hand), and applying knowledge (head).  When they are out of balance in weaving you get a deadened, complexity (too much head), a wild mess (not enough hand/head) or a technically perfect blah (hand without head/heart) and many other possible permutations I’d imagine.  But what I find interesting when looking at the projects I’m currently working on is that each one of them is either tilting in a head, heart or hand direction.  I would characterize the doubleweave as a head/hand production with too little heart . . . see below:

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I wanted to do a double weave using 2 very different densities/setts, and it is working-ish, but the block arrangement is dull and it is taking me forever to make progress because both yarns are super sticky and cling to each other making it necessary to clear each shed by hand.  Now that I have seen that I can make one layer 6x the density of the other, my head is satisfied, my heart is sad (boring) and my hands are frustrated.

The next warp is the 18-shaft def dw.  I would characterize this one (in its conception) as fairly balanced – a little low on heart.  The motif in the center was supposed to be “Z” in morse code, which is dash dash dot dot . . . I wanted Z z z z z as a nap throw, but didn’t have enough room. The funniest thing is that I messed up and only put dash dot dot or dot dot dash depending on which end you’re starting from which are “D” or “U” . So I now like to think of it my Du(h)! throw.  I like it okay, but want a little more pizazz . . . (see below).img_6461

The next project is pure heart (some might not think so because it is hard to photograph, but it has a beautiful subtle color combo of gray browns that I love). It is the 4-shaft plain weave, so simple, but does take a bit of technique to weave because of the mohair’s crazy clinginess.

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The next is a possible balance (yet to be realized)  It is a rigid heddle transparency that I warped up to take to a weavers’ retreat.  I wanted a project that was small enough to transport, open enough for the retreatees to create their own designs and something of a weaving challenge.  The warp is 16/2 linen which is a little difficult on the RH (tip is to tie on with the heddle in the up or down position so the difference between the moving and stationary threads is taken into account at tie-on).  I am hoping we get a good array of ideas that balance the elements. Right now it just has a little bubble fest test segment for me to practice getting ROUND circles (a little head/hand combo!).

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And finally a head/hand directly from Inkle Pattern Directory, the only bit of my heart (creativity) in this one is that it is for a collar for Fiona?.img_0031

I just noticed that there are only neutrals in all these projects. Funny – summer is over, fall is around the corner, and I have drained color out of my weaving life . . . Dr. Freud? Any insight?