Two Friends, Two Coasts

One sunny Wednesday last fall, I had lunch with my pal Amy.  She squeezed me in between phone calls and moving trucks that were preparing to take her stuff to the west coast, to L.A. where she had landed an exciting job.  We vowed not to cry, but as I drove away, I could barely see the road.

Amy and I met back in our New York days.  Her mother-in-law is a professor at the college where I worked for many years, and one day as Dr. C. and I chatted, she said that I really should meet Amy, that we would hit it off.  We were both married to musicians, both writers, both into fashion.  Dr. C. is a good matchmaker.  Before too long, we met, and a friendship was created.

Months into our friendship, my ex-husband and I separated.  I lost several friends, some because they thought they had to pick a side, some because that is just what happens in divorce, I suppose.  Amy managed to walk the line gracefully, though.  She was kind to me when I needed to share my sadness, but she never spoke ill of my ex.  She encouraged me when I decided to apply to MFA programs, even reading a shitty draft of my shitty first novel and giving me good feedback on it.  She gave me my first taste of being taken seriously as a fiction writer.

There were other firsts:  my first Kate Spade sample sale was with her; my first sushi (on the train…what fun) was with her.  Amy was the only person among my friends and family to attend my first public reading of a story.  She stayed in the city after she'd finished a long day's work, listened to a story that probably wasn't that good at the time, cheered for me.

When I moved to NM, we kept in touch a bit, but not as much as either would have liked.  Then I discovered something wonderful: Amy had moved from NY to MA, to Northampton, only a 45-minute drive from me when I was at Neal's house.

Suddenly, living in CT, which had seemed like a kiss of cultural death to me (still does on occasion.  I confess to snobbery) was not as bad.  My writing pal, my fashion pal, my pal who had known me in that other life would be close by.  

But now she's far away again.  So after I wiped tears away as I started my drive home from that lunch last fall, I did what any self-respecting fiber fanatic would do: I stopped at Webs to pick up a few skeins of yarn to make something for Amy.  Something that would let her know I love her.  

That's what we crafters do.  We put our sadness, our love, our friendship into every inch of a scarf.  We create a visceral way to share our feelings, to keep ourselves close to those we miss.

Tomorrow the bi-coastal scarf will be in the mail, wending its way to that other coast.  I hope every time Amy flips it around her neck, she thinks of our fabulous times together and hopes, as I do, for more of them.

Weaving Sampler

I'm fortunate to have an excellent weaving teacher nearby. She agreed to provide private lessons on a loosey-goosey schedule, and the wonderful Loom Doctor brought a workshop loom to the studio for me to borrow. Since late January, I've gone about once a week for a few hours. I finished my sampler on Tuesday, just in time, as the loom is due back to the shop.

While this piece of cloth may not look like much, I learned a lot about threadings and tie up and treadling. Let's see what I remember as I weave on my own!

Tutorial: How to Warp a Rigid Heddle Loom using a Peg

This summer, I took a class at Webs in order to learn how to weave on the rigid heddle loom I acquired via Craigslist.  The class was incredible, and I recommend it if you live nearby.  The trickiest part of weaving on a rhl is warping the loom, but once you’ve got the process down, well, spit, spat, it’s done like that! (Why, yes, I do secretly long to be Mary Poppins.)

I’ll do my best to explain the process and to provide some resources that might help you as well.

Before you begin, you’ll need to do some project planning.  Make sure you’ve marked the center of your heddle, and you might want to also mark each inch from either side of the center.  This will help you to achieve the correct width for your project.  How long do you estimate you’d like the finished product?  Add 10% to that number, and then add an additional 20" for loom waste.  If you want fringe, add that length to your number.  So, if you want a 60 inch scarf, your equation will look like this: Img_1405
60+6 (10%)+ 20+ 8 (fringe)=94".  Clamp your warping peg 94" from your back beam.

Make your life easy; if you aren’t using yarn that is on a cone, wind the yarn into a center-pull ball, which you might like to place in a coffee can on the ground (I used a box originally, but I’ve converted to coffee cans, which is what I always saw in use at Village Wools.)

Take a looImg_1331k at your heddle.  You’ll see slots and holes (oh, I should get some hits from that.  Minds out of the gutter, people.).  You’ll first go through the slots. We’ll deal
with the holes later. With your peg in position, tie the yarn on to the back apron rod.  So, from the back, using your hook (if you’re Dave, your hook is amazing), pull the yarn through the slot at your starting point; you’ll work across to the other end, the width that you want the project.

Drop the end over the peg. 

Go back to the apron rod, reach from under it, and pull the yarn through.  Drop over the peg.  Go through all of the slots needed to reach your width.  Every other time you go around the apron rod, you’ll come from under it.

Once you’re at the right width, pull all of the loops off of the peg, and snip the loop in half.  Loosely knot the ends to keep everything orderly. 

Next, you’ll use paper (butcher paper or paper bags that you’ve cut open work well) under the fiber as you wind onto the back beam.

The paper helps to keep an even surface for the yarn to come across, enabling you to keep good tension–the key to a successful warp.  Pull on the warp threads as needed to make even, and turn the back beam so the threads wrap around it.  As the threads start to wind around each other, make sure to insert the paper between them, snapping andImg_1338
shaking warp threads to keep that tension even.  If you need to add more paper, allow it to overlap a bit.  Keep winding on (tugging and pulling gently each time you turn that beam) until the front end of your warp threads reach the front bar.

Img_1339Now comes the part I like the best in warping.  Sit with the loom resting in your lap, braced against a table.  Turn on a good podcast.  Untie the knot and, moving from the left side to the right, put the heddle hook through the hole to the right of the slot and pull one of the two slot threads through the hole.

Once all of the threads are through, do a quick double check to make sure every other thread is through a slot/hole.  When you’re all set, grab bundles of 10 (or whatever your epi is) and tie loosely.

Starting in the center and working out (one to the left, one to the right) split  the bundle in half.  Drop the ends around the apron bar.  Pull up around to the sides (left and right), and tie over the top.  Click to make that picture larger and get a better sense of what I mean. 

Img_1344_2After completing this task, return to the center bundle and pull up on the knot (see picture) to tighten up the warp threads.  Continue until you’re satisfied with your tension, then tie the ends in nice little bows. 

You’re ready to weave!  Schacht has a fantastic website with more about warping on it, and Weavezine is a great resource, too.  I’d keep my eyes peeled to see what Dave is up to as well.  He’s had his loom for, like, five minutes and is already producing fantastic material.  He’s persuaded me to move on past a rhl…but I need to figure out some space issues before I undertake finding the right floor loom for me!

I hope this helps you to warp with confidence.  As I wrote before, after you warp once, it’s easy peasy!  Let me know if you have any problems, and I’ll do my best to clarify my instructions.

Wonderful Domesticity

Perhaps it comes from being the youngest of five children, the innate need to gobble up goodness before there is none left.  As an adult, though, I’ve made a conscious effort to savor, to leave some behind, whether it’s my favorite frozen yogurt or a box of maple sugar candy.  This discipline is important to me for many reasons: I don’t want to be greedy, on any level; I want to truly feel safe in the abundance around me; I want to feel that those urges for control are being used in a healthy manner.  And when something is really fabu, the urge to make it last and last and last trumps the desire to have it all now, now, now.

Reading Jane Brocket’s book The Gentle Art of Domesticity challenged my restraint, but I made it last as long as possible.  What a true delight this collection of essays and fantastic photos is!  I have long admired Jane’s blog, and pre-ordered the book when it came available.  Surprise, surprise when there was a box from Amazon waiting for me, and the dear, sweet cover met my eyes as I opened that box.  I wanted to read it from cover to cover immediately, but instead, I read a few essays a night.  As I neared the end of the book, which includes topics such as travel, color, texture, and so many more, I saved the essays for evenings when I needed a boost.  It’s a civilizing feeling to make a cup of tea and curl up with a dog on each side, Jane’s smart prose at the ready.  She’s captured everything about domestic life that I believe is important, all those skills and tasks that my mom’s generation did away with gleefully in order to have more free time.  I, like Jane and so many others, feel there is tremendous value in baking from scratch, in hand-quilting a blanket, in knitting socks for my beloved.  We don’t have to do these things, but we long for them, and Jane does an excellent job in explaining just what they mean to her, and as all good books speak to universal themes, to me, and probably to you as well.  She’s included recipes (I ordered Golden Syrup as she assures the reader that there is no American substitute, and I plan to bake the treats she shares), and the only flaw I found with the book was the lack of knitting patterns; I would love to have seen them included.  There is a fantastic resources section, and I’m planning a NYC trip just to visit some of the shops she mentions.  I’ve ordered a second copy as a Christmas gift for one of my friends, and I know she will get just as much pleasure from it as I have.  There’s no reason to be greedy here…plenty of books to go around!

I wanted to share these pictures that Dave took of the weaving I sent him in our swap.  I am astounded at how beautiful he made my humble length of cloth look, and I’m frothing at the mouth to see what he makes from the cloth.  Between him, Jane Brocket, and Scout, I’m feeling a deep need to upgrade my camera and start to take photography seriously.  I think it would be interesting to see how photography affects my writing, and I’m longing for my blog to have such pretty photos, too.  My super pricey wish list (occupied to date by a floor loom) is growing.  What’s on your wish list?

Desperate to be Outside

I spent the morning troubleshooting my Internet blackout (fixed; just need a new router for wifi), then I cleaned the house so I can go into the weekend with fewer chores.  I’ve got weaving to finish for a swap with Dave, and I’m dying to be outside.  Since I don’t have a stand (yet) for my rigid heddle loom, this is the set up I finally designed:
Yes, the dog is vital to my new weaving set up.  So is the fragrance of clethra, which is just heavenly right now!

In other happiness, I received a special painting purchased from the fabulous Elloh.  She does great little pieces inspired by movies, and I couldn’t resist my favorite Holly Golightly one!

Time to weave!

Letting the Universe Know

Julia Cameron says that if you want something, put it out there to the universe.  It has worked before, both in my life and the lives of friends.  So here goes.

I want an Inkle loom. 

Sure I can buy a full-price Schacht at Webs–tax-free weekend is even just around the corner.  I’ve spent my early afternoon post-writing cruising the ‘net for an inexpensive used inkle loom.  I don’t know how much I’ll really use one, so I don’t want to spend a lot.  I found these Palmer Looms that are more than reasonably priced.  Has anyone used one?  Reviews, please?

Why the sudden desire?  I’m wanting to weave bookmarks.  Like, now.  I clearly don’t have enough projects and interests…I am craving small weaving in the worst way!

So here’s my plea.  If you use an inkle loom, will you tell me what you use and what you think of it?  If you want to sell yours, will you let me know that, too?  I’ve done a ton of research about inkle looms, but I’m not finding reviews too easily.  Besides, I’d trust your review more than some strangers.  Because we’re not strangers, right?

Thanks, friends!

At the Loom

Img_1356Saturday I took a rigid heddle weaving class at Webs with Leslie Ann Bestor (Ravlink).  If you live in the area and have considered this class, good news: they’ve added a second section for July.  More good news: Leslie Ann is a fantastic teacher.  She did an excellent job with defining terms, explaining the process, showing it, and having us apply it, one step at a time.  You know how on Grey’s Anatomy they always say "Watch one, do one, teach one."?  I came home, and explained the entire process of warping to Neal.  I think it’s pretty well cemented in my head, but we’ll see what happens when I get the tools I need to start weaving on my no-name loom.

I’m excited by how much there is to learn and by what I know that I want to be able to do. 

If you’re interested in the nitty gritty details, here they are:

Sheep Shop Yarn Co. Sheep Three Yarn, one skein.  Woven on a Schacht Flip with a 94" warp at 10 epi, 12 picks (average).
There’s talk of a monthly rhl drop in (please??) and a more advanced class next spring.  I can’t wait to learn more!

As if all that new knowledge wasn’t enough to keep me floating on air, I got an e-mail today telling me that I’ve won a yard of fabric in the Sew, Mama, Sew! Free Friday Fabric contest.  How happy am I?  Pret-ty happy.*

What is making you happy this Monday?

*Anyone else here have a Larry David crush like I do?  CYE fans, can’t you hear him saying "pret-ty, pret-ty good"??