Day 10: Making Mistakes

How come so few people ever talk about their failures? Not only is failure often darn good entertainment, it’s an essential part of the learning/growing/living process. I can say all this with authority, because I am the type of person often paralyzed by the fear of failure. It’s unfortunate. Imagine how much I could accomplish if I could bottle up all that fear and pitch it out the window of a fast moving train!

As my dad always said, “Your successes cannot exceed 50% of your failures, so get out there and fuck up!”

I do my best.

Having woven three beautiful scarves, I was due for some fucking up. And here’s just how it went down.

In the projects book I got with my loom, there was a pattern for some cool looking placemats with a loose and gap-ey weave. The pattern called for stout linen thread. As you may recall I am practically incapable of following recipes, and patterns ditto. I had some gorgeous silk yarn, single spun with wispy threads of every color going every which way. The spirit of the yarn went perfectly with the spirit of the pattern, I imagined it was going to be divine. Table runners, I thought, or maybe even wall hangings. I set out to warp the yarn so that I would use the whole skein, and be able to get two finished pieces for x-mas gift giving. This meant that I spent half an hour warping, and the next hour and a half pulling the extra through, bit by bit, to use up the whole skein. Of course it was hard to warp such uneven, rough yarn at all. Let alone pull through several yards of extra. But I forged ahead, straight through knowing I should stop to feed the Toddler, straight through knowing I should stop to feed myself, until we were both on the very cusp of Total Meltdown, but I was finally goddamn done goddamit.

Later on, after beating down the Meltdown Beasts, I returned to my loom with weft in hand. I wove a few rows. Huh. Why does that look…. crappy? … Surely, it’s going to come together in a minute and knock me dead with fabulousness.

I wove a few more rows, and my eyes bagan to narrow. It just looked crappier and crappier. What the fuck?

I set my loom aside, thinking maybe I just had artist’s eye from too much weaving. Next day I came back to confirm my fears. It looked like hell.

I slowly realized that the pattern had used a very clean, tightly spun, single color yarn. More of a stout thread really, not soft, and certainly not scraggly. With this type of thread, the loose pattern of gaps was an obvious pattern, and looked fabulous. But, although the rustic unfinished look of my silk yarn was lovely in the skein, combined with the gap-ey pattern, it just looked like a really bad weaving job. Like a big ugly mess of yarn.

So. This morning, for the first time of doubtlessly many, I unstrung my loom. Having already cut the warps, I couldn’t just roll the yarn back up into a ball for use in another project, boo hoo.

The good news is, I have another Big Idea. I got it when I was warping up all that psychedelic yarn.

And now I can’t wait for Mardi Gras, cuz that shit’s gonna make a wicked cool wig.

Day 4: Where Obsession Can Get You

Finished my first scarf on the new loom. Took me two days. And that’s with kiddlets. It’s great. I used a deep red/copper variegated yarn for the warp, and a heathery brownish-gray for the weft. But more than liking the scarf itself, the important thing is that yes, I still love my new loom. I’m already scheming future projects, especially ones I can do with the big bag of yarn the MIL already has!

It snowed here. A few inches, with a glassy, crispy crust on top. Took the toddler out this morning to frolic. Adorable. The weird flu bug I brought with me (first I had a killer headache, then sore throat so bad I thought maybe it was tonsilitis, then body aches like crazy) caught up to Grandma, so I’m back to solo kid duty. Got a batch of bread dough rising. Annoyed at the Babe for not staying asleep in his crib for any length of time so I can start a new project. Almost feels like home!

Sorry for the quickie posts. I had imagined having more time/desire for the computer while here, but not so much of either.

Happy Snow!

Day 2 and 3: Excuse Me While I Throw My Shuttle

That’s right dear readers, I’m a weaver! I can use words like “shuttle” with abandon. If you weave, you might even know what the hell I’m talking about!

Got me a gorgeous little 12 inch Ashford rigid heddle tabletop loom yesterday. Or rather my parents-in-law bought it for me for as an early x-mas present. I warped it this morning, and I’ve got a good 10 inches of red and gray scarf woven already. I am sooooo excited. Geez. Realized yesterday morning when I woke up, and couldn’t care less about glomming onto the computer first thing (like I’ve been doing for months) how much some new and interesting learning project like this has been lacking from my life. There is just nothing like learning, discovering, creating.

I haven’t figured out how to get pictures up yet. Luddite that I am, I don’t have my own laptop (gasp!), so I have to make do with the in-laws computer. Not that it’s inferior, it’s a perfectly fancy mac. But I’m just intimidated by all things electronic, and it’s not the exact system I’m familiar with, so it sets me back with dread. I’ll tackle it soon, so’s y’all can see the sexy new love of my life.

I have to say– okay, I’m only 10 inches in, but so far– it’s everything I’d hoped for! As I throw the shuttle back and forth, I’m trying to figure out why weaving is my fiber craft, not knitting, not crocheting, not spinning, not felting. ‘Cuz boy are the first two so much cheaper to get into, so much more portable and logistically simple. Here’s what I’ve come up with.

1. I’m a control freak. Yeah, I’ll admit it. When I think of spinning, and I did try my hand at it once, I get a panic attack. All those fibers. You just can’t tame them all. A good spinner has to just let those fibers flow through her fingers with a certain release. You can’t make every inch of yarn perfect. And in fact, the most beautiful yarns are not remotely perfect. It’s the irregularity that makes them so appealing. But though I can appreciate it, I can never let go for stuff like that. With knitting not as much, but still true. My first few years of knitting, the reason I didn’t like it was because I sat there with gritted teeth, trying to wrestle that yarn into obedience, with impossibly tight stitches (sometimes so tight I couldn’t fit the damn needle in, and had to pry open a space) and a searing neck ache. After giving it up for a few years, I was able to come back to it with a relaxed neck, and loose stitches. But I still find it kind of annoyingly unmasterable.

Not that my weaving rows are so pretty, whoo boy. But there seems the possibility for control with weaving that other fiber arts don’t offer. And that the control won’t ruin the beauty of the piece, or cause my neck permanent damage…

2. I like stuff I can do in recognizable chunks. Like do one big thing, then be done with that for awhile. With knitting (which I did try hard to like, over the course of more than ten years) you cast on, then it’s pretty much the same thing till you’re done. I mean, one stitch from another– not a big difference. Pretty much the same action. And it goes slow. I know there are speed knitters out there, I’ve watched in awe as whole socks popped out of those damn needles. But, you’re never gonna beat a weaver. Weaving starts with warping your loom, which takes a significant amount of time. Then you get to do the actual weaving, which goes fast. Then the cutting from the loom and finishing. Three significantly different activities. Which makes it seem not to drag on so much as knitting.

3. Though I can really appreciate the simplicity of being able to create clothing with two little sticks and a ball of yarn, I also do love a brilliantly designed non-electric tool. Looms, especially the small ones, are a beautiful balance of human engineering. Just complex enough to do a job gorgeously well, but not so complicated that it takes an expert to operate one.

4. Lastly, I love woven wool. Don’t know why, but the look and feel of it just does me in! I swoon.

So, that’s it. My new love affair revealed.

Now, excuse me while I go throw my shuttle.

Crafting Vacation Update

I’ve discovered yet another citrus forage in our neighborhood– kumquats! Picked a big bag this morning, on a walk to put to sleep the Toddler who woke up at 3 am (oh, yes). I’ll pack them to Spokane, and my first crafting fun will be turning kumquats into candy for xmas gifts. I’ve candied orange and grapefruit peel before. Takes a ton of sugar, but it’s not that hard, and ever so addictively delicious. I think the kumquats might be the best ever, since their peel is even good to eat fresh. I’d never eaten one before. !KAZOWZA! That is one big burst of flavorama-rama-ding-dong!

We leave tomorrow, bright and early, for my fabulous DIY Crafting Vacation! (or Christmas Visit with In-Laws, depending on how you look at it). I’ve got the aforementioned

  • Soap. Bar, liquid, and laundry.
  • Bees-waxed cloth kitchen bags, to replace all the stupid ziplocks I’ve had just about enough of.

for which I ordered lye, washing soda and beeswax. But to those I’m hoping to add something a little more exciting. Something I’ve wanted to learn for years. Weaving.

I’ve always felt I had a kinship with fiber, like– fiber is my thing, my spiritcraft. But despite a lot of knitting, I’ve never come around to it, and when I tried crocheting, it didn’t look any more promising. Spinning looks all wrong for me too. What has always whispered sweet wooly nothings in my ear is weaving. Plus, the weavers I’ve met look like my people. My ladies. (No offense to the other fiber workers, of whom I’ve adored many.)

I did learn how to use a backstrap loom in Guatemala. So I have had enough of a taste to think my instinct is right on. In fact, I have a backstrap loom at home in Cordova, which is not much more than a bundle of sticks. Brilliant little invention. But what I want is a small tabletop loom. Something I can easily sit down to for 5-50 minutes at a time, which are the kind of windows I have at this point in my life. Something I can work at when I’m chatting with a friend.

They’re not so cheap as one might hope. I’m thinking I can convince someone to make it their xmas present to me. If I could find a used on, that would be ideal. We’ll see.

I’m thinking I will do a post a day for the duration of my trip, to make sure you all feel like a part of the fun! Though, I will still have kids, one of which is a baby. So don’t expect anything mind-blowing to go on… ;)