Thursday, December 31, 2015

A City of Bells

There are rare nights when I cannot sleep. I close my book, wrap up my chocolate bar, click off the light. A few quick minutes later my mind obediently drifts into sleep. A half hour more, and I wake again, alert, thinking, and unable to sleep. They say it's best at that point to get up and do something.

I'm reading a book. A City of Bells by Elizabeth Goudge has been recommended to me for years, and Adam bought it as a Christmas gift. Bless his heart – I knew her books were hard to find. The used copies he located were in terrible shape, so he bought a new one from a very small printing and it cost a fortune (in my opinion) for a new book. Well, I'm enjoying it.
That's my latest weaving project underneath the book.
Here's what Goudge says about thinking. Rather, here's what one of her characters says, but he's a wise old gentleman, so I suppose we may attribute the words to the author. “That's right, dear boy, that's right. But mind you do think. Don't just take out your feelings and look at them, which is what passes for thought with most of us pitiful, self-centered creatures. Look at the question from everyone's point of view …” (84). I like that! How often we call ourselves thinking something out, when really all we're doing is rehashing our worn emotions regarding the matter. We wear ourselves out, getting no closer to any understanding of it. We refuse to see it from others' perspectives for fear of not being true to ourselves.

I'm not that far into the book and I've found a good quote about joy. In the middle of a sorrowful situation, the same wise old gentleman admonishes us to pray and make inquiries, “… and that was all they could do .... In this beautiful world that God had made joy was a duty” (49). What a strange idea! We think joy, like love, is a spontaneous breeze that blows and disappears on its own inexplicable whim. Joy, a duty! The quote from my blog banner expresses a similar sentiment. Joy is something you can look for, find, and choose. It's up to you.

The ruminations of another character present us with yet another interesting idea, a morsel. “His bent of mind was a scholarly one and his outlook on life that of an artist. Regulations had irked him, and red tape, and that life of routine that so often stifles imagination” (27).

Now there's something folks disagree on! Ask Anthony Trollope, who rose quite early each morning, spent a set amount of time for writing novels, and then began his day and went to work. He was quite regimented, quite artistic, quite prolific. Some argue that routine is the very life-blood of creativity. They scoff at the excuse-makers (like myself) who put off their art, waiting for the illusive muse to descend. I'm not sure which position to take on this and am inclined to think that different people create differently. Clearly Goudge's young man in this book is a waiter of muses.

I find Goudge's books to be long and luxurious like a good meal or a soaking bath. They are best consumed in small bites and savored. She does nothing in a hurry, and her settings, plots, characters, and conflicts are thoroughly presented and fleshed out. Her books stay real to me for years and with a flitting thought of them, suddenly I'm back in them, back in the place and the feel of the book. That's a gift.

It's now after midnight. I finished my fourth weaving project today, went to town with Adam and saw the new Star Wars movie, and ate at Chipotle. We are still quite damp, mucky, and nearly flooded around here. The ground is saturated. More rain is forecast for tomorrow, but after that we hope for an extended dry spell. It's too wet to walk in the field. How the wheat and greens are surviving is a mystery.

Monday, December 28, 2015

This Was Christmas

I had such a nice Christmas because I decided to stay home. I didn't let the allure of town and shopping and movie theatres and restaurants draw me away from my front door. While others dashed to town on busy roads, I stayed home and did weaving :)
On Christmas Day I burnt all the Advent candles down to nubbins.
We invited two gentlemen for Christmas dinner and they enjoyed themselves. Meet Dave and Joe. Adam's wearing his apron.
I don't often set a fine table, but I made the effort ... cloth napkins too! Peter dug out my red Christmas chargers from the attic.
Adam was in fine cooking form that day! He started with the most delicious, soft cinnamon rolls with a cream cheese glaze. I ate these two. Then I sent all leftover rolls to a friend's house with Peter and Julia. We didn't need those sitting around tempting us!
Adam bought a very fine roast, which is a rare extravagance for us. He cooked it to a perfect temperature. We also had: Yorkshire pudding (made popover-size), small red potatoes with butter and parsley, mashed sweet potatoes, green bean casserole (with homemade fried onions because he forgot to buy them, which was a blessing!), dinner rolls, roasted carrots and turnips. There were horseradish sauce and olives on the table, with all manner of little nibbles and sweets.
Dinner was at 4:00, but at noon he offered us a place of roasted turkey, cheeses, and crackers.
Adam made a chiffon spice cake for dessert. Oh my -- lighter than air!
Each doggie got a bone. They were quiet on the back porch.
Anna's been doing lots of cross-stitch while I've been weaving. We're quite a pair!
She was given a friend's embroidery floss stash, and is having so much fun discovering cross stitching. I saved a Christmas cross stitch magazine from years ago (1989 or '90) that I"d made one stocking from. She's started on a second stocking; there are six stocking patterns in the book. She looked it up online. You can still buy copies of that magazine; they cost $20. My original copy cost me $2.95. It's a really good one from Better Homes and Gardens.
That's my latest weaving from last night. It's called Art Weaving (I think). It's done by capturing the yarn strand on the right (some silver/sequined yarn on the bottom section, and some pale blue yarn on the top section), and drawing it through the weft part-way with the dark blue yarn. It's quite fun and creative because you produce the shape as you go, according to your own whim. Here's the youtube link I watched for it:

He calls it a clasped-weft method, and also shows how to do simple inclusions.  He makes it look so easy, but I had to practice quite a few times before I mastered this technique.
It was a peaceful Christmas. Anna, Peter, and Julia were here, which was lovely, and we got to talk with Philip and Kara, who traveled to her folks in Illinois. It was a peaceful Christmas for me. Our church's Lessons and Carols Service was particularly lovely this year. After the hubbub of music and performance earlier in the month, it was so nice to be off work, done with commitments, and just be home. I hope your Christmas was wonderful too. Now I must click "publish" before I'm utterly distracted with more fun weaving videos on youtube!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Eve Weave

Without too much detail, I'll say I finished the "sampler scarf." Like an old-fashioned cross-stitch sampler, I wanted it to contain much practice for me, a beginner, especially on changing colors and incorporating a little bling. Just a little.
It's washed and drying outside in the 85 degree chill of a Southern Christmas Eve, haha!
The family members think it's quite pretty. I think it's rather garish, but I did try to limit myself to a handful of yarns ... I hope it has a "theme."
I did a little hemstitch with some youtube assistance on the tassel edges.

Adam conferred with his biggest cookbooks, hunting for all the best recipes for Christmas dinner tomorrow. Tonight he's just making a little shrimp and cocktail sauce for supper.
And yes, I've started on my third weave, another scarf. This time I'm going more subdued: dark blue, light blue, with a touch of silver sequins.
But I've put it away for the next day or so, to focus on Christmas. We're having company tomorrow for dinner, and the house is full of yarn and doggies :)

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

More Weaving

I finished the first weaving project. It turned out well for an experiment. Not good enough to sell, but I'll enjoy using it. It's about 25" by 25".
This olive green color reminds me of my mother. She likes things this color.
My edges at the beginning of the weave were quite bad, as you see.
And twice I made a weaving error -- somehow the shuttle didn't catch one of the warp threads Here you see what that looks like on both sides of the fabric:

I hand washed it, let it dry overnight, and now it's on an end table in the living room.
I could hardly wait to begin the next project, a scarf. I'm glad to do something narrower. After watching a few videos online, I want to incorporate lots of different colors and a few bumpy textures into the scarf. I raided my stash of "Simply Soft" yarn; it works perfectly well on my loom, I'm glad to say.
Here's a bit of my more interesting yarn -- textured with sequins, faux hair, metallic strands. It's easy to slip a bit of this into the weave and incorporate it. Once it's trapped in the weave, it's secure.
The whole process is quite creative and oh-so fun! One drawback is that after I weave it and wind it onto the front roller, you can't see it anymore (until it's finished and unrolled). I can't see it. I can't get an image of the entire project in my mind's eye.
So I'll have to wait until my creativity has run its course, and then I'll find out the entire effect of what I've done on the scarf. I'm wondering if I've been too adventurous, incorporating too many colors. We'll see.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The First Weave

Yesterday I began weaving for the first time in my life, a dream I've had. I'm grateful to my dear husband for thinking of this for my Christmas. He knows me, he listens to me, he thinks ahead for my happiness. I still have a long way to go, but this is how it's looking.
After the loom is threaded and ready to go, I rest it on the side of the dining room table and can sit as I weave.
A lady from the Ashford Company has youtube tutorials that made it possible for me to weave on my own, without lessons. She shows how to warp the loom -- i.e., how to load the vertical yarn onto the loom. That yarn (the darker color this time) is the warp.

Here's the video, for any that want to watch. Jenny W., you KNOW you want to :)

I pulled the loom out from under the Christmas tree and assembled all the smaller parts. That's when I noticed one piece was missing: the threading hook. Yesterday I made do with a piece of cardstock cut to size, and later a tiny crochet hook. Today, Adam is making me a threading hook from a flat piece of copper. It's pretty.
I never knew that yarn is what you load a loom with. This particular loom uses yarn slightly lighter in weight that most of the worsted weight yarn we knitters use in the U.S. I bought 3-weight yarn (baby yarn), also called D.K. yarn in England, Australia, and New Zealand, where this loom was made.
These were the most non-babyish colors I could find.

I'll add here that I think this loom could also be threaded with 4-weight yarn. I think the eyes are large enough to accommodate it. If so, I have a huge supply of yarn at hand already. I especially think that Simply Soft (which is a tad bit smaller/thinner than other worsted weight yarn) would work. I have lots of that already.
Okay. I clamped the loom to one side of my table.
 The clamp fits into a hole on the back of the loom.
This part confused me. I had to start three times before I got it right. The yarn sits in a bowl on the floor. The yarn end comes up and ties onto the back stick, a loose stick away from the roller to which the yarn is all attached and which helps keep the tension.

 Some success, finally! The yarn loops around the back stick, goes through the slit in the plastic strips in the heddle, and loops around the warping pin, which is clamped to the other side of the table.
My loom and I, reflected in the antique halltree mirror from my husband's family. Too many scarves and hats!
Some photos of the fully-threaded loom:
 I tied the yarn to the back stick again at the end.
 At this point I felt it looked remarkably like the innards of a piano.
 There's the warping pin at the far end.

 I cut the yarn loops from the warping pin after tying them together with a piece of scrap yarn. I laid them on the table and called for Adam.
He came in from his compost piles and held the yarn ends with a good tension while I rolled the threads onto the back roller.
As I rolled the yarn onto the roller, I inserted sturdy strips of cardboard provided for that purpose -- to keep the yarn strands aligned.

After removing the scrap yarn tie, I turned the loom around so that those ends were toward me, the correct position for weaving.
And I sat down with the loom in my lap for the second threading. See how the loom's back has a cut-out that rests on the table neatly?
The second threading involves removing one of each pair of threads from each slot and threading it through the eye to its right. This is when I used the crochet hook.
 And I laid the threaded yarn up over the heddle.
I tied the loose yarn ends in bunches of about 1" each.
 This is the step I think I did badly, and I believe it affected my weave later on. The Ashford lady said to try to made the knots lay evenly across -- to keep them the same distance from the heddle. I called myself trying to do that, but next time I'll try harder.
That's what the warp looks like, when you're ready to begin weaving. See how my knots don't really go straight across? With a long piece of sturdy string (I used cotton yarn because I have no string in the house!), I quite tightly tied each knot to the front stick as the lady in the video told me to. I tried to even out the tension.
They say to do a few rows with some scrap yarn, to get the tension going on those first few rows. I'm assuming those will come out later when the piece is finished.
 The blue is scrap yarn.
I'll do another post on this after I weave today. I hope you enjoyed this!