Archive for March, 2012

Mirrix 16" Big Sister tapestry loom, now known as Kaylee

did forget to name somebody!!! The Mirrix 16″ Big Sister tapestry loom arrived yesterday…how did I forget her? She needs a name, so I guess she’ll be Kaylee. That would be the last of the Firefly/Serenity women. Now everyone has a name!

I’ve never done tapestry weaving before. Gee, what a surprise, like I’ve done anything more complicated than a potholder before Zoe came along. Anyway, I already had a book about tapestry in my library, and have ordered one or two more, so I’m reading up on it now. It’s amusing to me how much more likely I am to study when it’s a subject that interests me. Hand me a math book or a general science book, and you need a crane to get me anywhere near it. Hand me animal science, beading, weaving books, and I’m there with bells on, on my own power.

So: tapestry weaving. I started reading the book last night. Thus far, I have learned that it is done in plain weave, and that each color section is done individually, so you aren’t going to be weaving across from selvedge to selvedge unless the color you’re using goes that way. I’m intrigued, and have to read more.

There is a downside to fulfilling almost my entire wish list all at once: I want to try everything right now, which doesn’t work if you actually want to be good at any of them. You have to spend time on each thing, not just fifteen minutes here, five minutes there. It’s hard, because all this new stuff is staring at me saying “Come on, just a little while…” So I’m forcing myself to stick with one thing at a time, and right now it’s spinning.

I’m having a lot of trouble with the spinning. Of course, I’ve only been at it one day, so that might have something to do with it. I called one of my guild mates for help, and I’ll be bringing Anansi to the guild meeting next week and begging for more help if I don’t figure this out. I said something to the effect of not being able to do this, or  something like it, and she gave me a huge compliment! She said that based upon what she’s seen me produce in weaving so far, she thinks I have a gift for it, and I will get the spinning. Wow. That felt really good, to have an experienced weaver/spinner tell me I was gifted in it! I thought I was pretty average! It certainly inspires me to work even harder at learning everything!

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Zhan, Daisy Hill Handiworks peg loom with nylon pegs

This is Pa’u Zotah Zhan, the very beautiful peg loom custom-made for me! She was made by Daisy Hill Handiworks, owned by Lynette and Mike Richter. Lynette is a fellow Raveler and had emailed me about her looms when she read about the less-than-stellar  Callimoor peg loom that I’d bought. She told me what she did, and asked me what I wanted in a peg loom. Well, I already had the wonderful Finniwig Studios peg loom for chunkier yarn; what I needed was a loom for finer yarn that could replace the Callimoor, and I had seen some fantastic examples from the UK whose pegs were nylon, instead of wood. So that’s what I asked for. Lynette had never made nylon pegs before, so we agreed that I would be the guinea pig on this experiment. I am thoroughly happy with the results!! I got exactly what I asked for, without having to pay for shipping from Europe! Lynette did a fantastic job. She had even asked me what my favorite color was, so if I wanted the loom base painted she would have an idea of what colors to use. Naturally, my color is purple, so purple pansies were the order of the day!

I am going to put in a shameless plug here: Lynette and Mike are just getting Daisy Hill Handiworks off the ground, so there is no website yet for me to link to. However, I asked Lynette what information I could put in the blog so that any interested parties could reach her. I didn’t want to compromise their privacy, but Lynette said it was okay to put it all down here, so here it is:

Closeup of Lynette's beautiful painting!

Daisy Hill Handiworks

517 West First Street

Saint Charles, MN 55972


(507) 438-6038

They are hoping to get their website going in the near future, so keep an eye out for them!

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Anansi, aka Kromski Sonata spinning wheel. Isn't he beautiful?

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Yes, I’m on pins and needles here, waiting for UPS to get here with Anansi, which probably won’t happen until this afternoon. Grrr. Arrgh. I’m so excited to finally have a spinning wheel! I received some wool cards from a giveaway at the last guild meeting, and I’ve been dying to give spinning a shot on a wheel. I still don’t understand the spindle, though, so I’ll be bringing both with me to the next guild meeting!

I ordered Anansi and accessories in a mahogany finish, and can’t wait to see it. It looked so pretty in the picture!

The loom I ordered from Mirrix hasn’t shipped yet, nor has the Flip. When I called the Woolery to check on the Flip, they said that they were going to have it drop-shipped directly from Schacht, because they were out, and because Schacht is located right here in Boulder. It didn’t make sense for Schacht to ship it from Colorado to Kentucky, just to have to send it back to Colorado. Which really is logical. Unfortunately, Schacht says that they don’t make the loom until they receive an order for it, so I won’t have it until mid-April. Same goes for Mirrix. And Ampstrike is in Estonia, so even though that order has shipped, it will probably take a couple of weeks to get here too. Sigh. But in the meantime, I can play with Anansi and Talyn. So all is not lost. Although I haven’t found a home for Talyn yet in my studio. He’s still on the floor. I really need a sturdy table for both him and Zoe.

Things have improved a bit on the manic side of BPD since I started with fiber arts. It’s weird, and yet not, because when I’m manic I tend to jump from project to project very rapidly. With all the different types of fiber arts I now have, with projects on almost all of them, the jumping isn’t so bad. I can leave a project indefinitely, and it doesn’t do any  harm, unlike, say, leaving dishes undone to go do laundry, then leaving the wet clothes in the washer to go do yet another thing. So my fiber obsession is helping that aspect of things. The depressive side pretty much remains the same. When I swing that way, the children and the dogs are taken care of, but not much else gets done. And I’m not fond of the drugs that have been prescribed. The doctors have yet to find one that really works for me. This drug makes me a zombie, that one makes me feel like I’m on speed, and the other one makes me suicidal. I wonder if there is something natural I can use. I’m not someone that likes taking man-made chemicals and putting them in my body. I don’t trust pharmaceutical companies. I believe every one of them is out for their financial bottom line and don’t give a damn about the people actually using their product. That may be an overgeneralization, but I tend to doubt it. And I can’t afford to be a zombie, on speed, or suicidal: I have two children in my house whose well-being I’m responsible for, and who I love very much. Most of the time, the girls and the dogs do more to keep me level than any drug ever could anyway, just by being who they all are. They drive me crazy more often than not, but that’s what kids and furkids do. That’s their job, and they’re very good at it!

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There are so many twists and turns in life, so many things you don’t or can’t see coming. It’s taken me nearly 44 years to come to a place in my life where I’ve managed to do the things that were high up on my list. More than half a lifetime!!

When I was a kid growing up on Long Island, every child talked about what they wanted to be when they grew up. Doctor, lawyer, Indian chief, whatever it was. I had three answers to that question: I wanted to be a veterinarian, I wanted to be a writer, and above all, I wanted to be a mom. A career was just bonus. More than anything in the world, I wanted children, even then. And I wanted as many dogs, horses, and cats as I could afford to have.

My mother was a librarian, so books were all but sacred in our house, and I fell in love with books early. I read early, and wrote my first story when I was four. I don’t remember what it was about at all, although I feel safe in saying that it was probably about horses, and I’m sure that somewhere in my parents’ things that story still exists. They kept things like that forever.

One of the first books I read till it was dog-eared and falling apart was All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriott. Well, of course! It combined my first loves: books and animals! And it was James Herriott who made me want to be a vet, although it is difficult to accept that those kinds of vets don’t exist anymore. But at that age, I imagined myself as a female Dr. Herriott, helping animals and their humans during the day, and a writer at night. I would also, according to my mother’s plans, be married to a wonderful West Indian man and have the requisite 2 children, boy and girl.

I stuck with this combined plan of mine and Mom’s for many years. It started to change when I realized that I didn’t like research. I wanted to write, but I didn’t like being told what to write about, how and when to write it, and what the content would be. It was one reason I liked science fiction/fantasy. I could write about people with blue skin who live on a planet with two purple moons, where the sun was green, the water was burgundy, and the grass was pink, and there was no one who could tell me that it was impossible. If anyone tried, I could simply say, “Oh, you’ve been there? Then, pray, enlighten my humble self!” Needless to say, no one ever did.

I discovered boys, and lost interest in writing, though never in reading, and, apparently, never lost interest in weaving either. I wrote for myself. I discovered beading, and threw myself into that. Years passed, I finally met a mostly-wonderful man (lol), and we grew a family of two beautiful little girls who drive me crazy, and four big dogs (who also drive me crazy). In all that time, three things remained constant: I wanted to be a mom, I wanted to be a vet, and I wanted to weave. Forty-four years, and I’m two-thirds of the way there!

When I say that the twists and turns are odd, I mean that the plans you make are often not the ones you wind up with. I expected to be long done with college and veterinary medical school before I got married or had kids. Yet here I am at 44, on disability and not yet done with undergraduate school and still planning on vet med, which I thought was nuts at my age, until someone asked me how old I would be if I didn’t go. People don’t get younger. I’m going to keep getting older  either way, so I might as well do what I want to do.

Learning to weave, as much as I wanted it, I didn’t really expect to learn at all. Kids? My plan was three boys first, then a girl, so that when she was old enough to date, every male in her orbit would know she had three big brothers in addition to her father for them to worry about, and only the best guys would stick in those circumstances! Plus, it was a well-known fact that girls have special relationships with their dads, and boys with their moms. I didn’t expect my girls to be as close to me as they are.

There are a lot of lessons to be learned by not following your plans to a “T” is what I’m trying to say, I guess. There are times I wish I had, sure, but overall, I’m happy!

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Please don’t think I’m bragging, but I am very excited! I have almost completed my wish list! Well, ok, my revised wish list. I am forced to admit that the marudai and takadai have become low priority. They’re still on the list, but I haven’t done much with my Kumihimo lately, being more focused on actual weaving and getting the equipment to learn spinning. We got some money for my birthday, which is tomorrow, and hubby let me go hog wild with it. His reasoning is that birthday money is for doing something fun, and he knows what I find fun is different from his idea of fun. He doesn’t really get it, has no interest in fiber arts at all, and only made me promise that fulfilling my wish list now would be the end of large fiber arts purchases. I agreed. So I ordered a bunch of wooden card weaving cards, shuttles, and pick up sticks from Ampstrike on Etsy (he is in Estonia and does beautiful woodwork), an 8 shaft table loom from Northwest, a Schacht Flip loom with a stand and bag, extra reeds for the Flip and the Cricket, a yarn ball winder, an umbrella swift, and a Kromski Sonata spinning wheel with some accessories. I also picked up the dowels to make a backstrap loom, which intrigues me a bit, and which I’m nervous about trying. Plus, a peg loom made just for me arrived last week too, and it’s gorgeous! I haven’t taken pictures of it yet; those will be next on my agenda! I’ll be very fiber-busy for quite awhile with this haul!

The Northwest Frieda 8 shaft arrived today, and what a beautiful loom! Even with eight shafts, it’s lighter than my 4 shaft Meco, Zoe. It’s all maple, with a clear finish, and the castle is open so that the shafts can be easily removed and put back. It has an 18″ weaving width, the largest that Northwest makes. I only ordered it two days ago, which shows how quickly this company moves! I didn’t expect it here already!

The newest member of the family, Talyn

The levers/treadles are on the right hand side at the bottom, which I really love; that’s less strain on my shoulders. I can’t wait to find a really awesome pattern and set it up! I think it’s going to need more heddles, though. There don’t seem to be very many. On the other hand, I imagine you need fewer heddles to weave across 18″ than you do 22″. So it might very well have enough.

I hadn’t thought ahead as far as names go. I have to name everything. The new peg loom will be Pa’u Zotah Zhan, I think, in keeping with the Farscape theme my peg looms all seem to be with. Zhan had the appearance of a blue-skinned, bald human, but was actually a sentient plant and quite beautiful. Lynette, who made my peg loom, painted purple pansies on it, so calling this peg loom Zhan seems appropriate!

The Northwest Frieda, I think, will be Talyn, since the Northwest inkle is Moya, and in Farscape, Moya and Talyn were mother and son living ships. That leaves the Flip and the Sonata without names. Hmmm. Well, the Cricket rigid heddle is River, so I guess I’ll go back to Firefly on that one and name the Flip Inara. With the Sonata wheel, it’s time to change themes, I think. Maybe Celtic goddesses? Greek ones? Native Americans? Oh, wait, I’ve got it! Anansi! The only spider I’ve ever liked. I grew up on stories of Anansi the Spider. They’re African stories, if you don’t already know that. Spiders spin, and that’s what the Sonata does, so that’s appropriate. I don’t know if Anansi was considered a god or not, but it works for me. Now everyone is named, and I’m happy.

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Finally warped for card weaving, and I've got her started on a pretty colorful weave!

What happens to a warp if you don't use a warping board. This is the half I wound up cutting off after three hours of trying to unsnarl the mess I'd made.

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Dymondwood pick-up sticks

No, the “money” portion of the title does not refer to actually having money. It refers to the lack thereof. It befuddles me a bit how one can move into a new place, not be saddled with a mortgage, and somehow have less money available than before. Have the costs of things really increased that dramatically?!

Some of this I can account for. We did have some major setbacks on moving into this house, that’s true. And our vehicles are both older, both nearing the 100,000 mile mark, and both have moved from the ninth circle of Hell, temperature-wise, to a far chillier climate, which, I imagine, is hard on vehicular components. Add in the cost of parts and labor to fix everything that needs to be fixed, along with the things needed for routine maintenance, and the cost is ridiculous. Still: no mortgage, and my cell and overall utility usage is lower than they were in Arid Zone A (Arizona), so what gives?

My husband swears it’s the weaving. He says it’s the most expensive hobby ever. This from the man who recently spent nearly $300 on one Optimus Prime action figure from Japan. And he says my hobby is expensive. I understand why looms cost what they do, and in that respect, he has no room for complaint. I haven’t blown thousands of dollars on a loom…yet. But a Transformers toy? Come on!

Admittedly, I am told I have a condition known as OLAD: Obsessive Loom Acquisition Disorder, but I realized today that this has its roots in a far more insidious condition that I call OFATAS: Obsessive Fiber Arts Tool Acquisition Syndrome. OFATAS covers everything, as do I. Have I mentioned that I’m now knitting too? And have discovered that it’s just as slow as I remember?

Top design: Jingle Bells; bottom: Purple Passion

I do cover everything. It’s not just weaving, it’s the books and the pick-up sticks (I just bought two lovely ones from Threadsthrutime!), it’s spinning and the books and tools for that, it’s crocheting and those tools and books, knitting and same…okay, I might have something to do with the “dough deficiency”, as a friend of mine used to call it, but my shopping is not constant!! In fact, I haven’t done much shopping at all recently! I bought three books and the pick-up sticks, and that’s it!

The pick-up sticks are made of something called dymondwood, which is apparently wood veneers that are dyed and put together in the same way that plywood is made, with pressure and heat. At least, that’s how I understand it. Don’t quote me on that. I’m the furthest thing in the world from a woodworker, so taking my word for it would be silly. I looked up an explanation, and that was what I got from it. I could have completely misunderstood. But they’re absolutely beautiful!

The books were Finger Weaving: Indian Braiding by Alta Turner, The Handweaver’s Pattern Directory by Anne Dixon, and Creative Weaving by Sarah Howard and Elisabeth Kendrick. I’ve not had a chance to do much more than skim them yet though, as I made a discovery that’s kept me busy: River can be used for tablet/card weaving! I just took the reed away and stored it on a shelf. This discovery, while joyeux, led to another, less pleasant discovery: warping for cardweaving is even harder than for Zoe, at least for me, because I invariably turn the entire thing into a knot, which happened this time too. Why? Because it doesn’t occur to me to use the warping board. I lost half the present warp before that occurred to me, so there are now three lovely chains of warp hanging up waiting to be used next time. Hopefully it will work out the way I have planned, although I don’t hold out much hope of that. In the words of Jayne Cobb in Serenity, “What you plan and what takes place ain’t ever exactly been similar.” That pretty much sums it up!

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It has been a busy week. Lots of weaving, school pictures, grocery days, doctors, guild meeting, and more weaving. And, of course, the normal insanity of parenthood, marriage, and pet slavery.

Don’t get offended at “pet slavery”! I don’t mean that the pets are slaves, but that the humans in the house are slaves to the pets! It’s true, if you think about it. Consider this: most pets, the ones with good slaves, have very little they have to do in life. They eat, sleep, use the bathroom, and are cute and lovable, and in return, the human slave pays for their room and board, shares the majority of the bed, and covers their medical expenses from birth until they cross the Bridge, and the slave does this gladly. If your human child attempted to get through life that way, the human parent, after a certain age and amount of frustration, will boot the human child out into the world to get a job and support his/herself. That being said, there is no such thing as a dumb animal. Dumb humans, certainly, but not dumb animals. Or at least, not entirely dumb.

Bandit, one of our Labrador sisters, is not the brightest crayon in the box. Her brain never matured beyond puppyhood. She and her sister Smoky will be nine this year. In dog lexicon, they are senior citizens now, but Bandit doesn’t know that, and she is a canine Houdini. She has gotten out of the backyard twice recently, and we have not yet figured out how she is doing it.

We have an odd property. It faces two streets, meaning that if it faced one way it would have one address, and in the exact opposite direction it would have a different one. This wouldn’t be unusual if this were a corner house, but it isn’t. Our front yard is on one street, and the backyard is on another. The back is divided into two parts. The front half, closest to the house, is where the dogs spend their days when they refuse to come in. The back half is separated from the main drag by the sidewalk. We don’t use that part of the yard because it has a very steep slope and we don’t want anyone (read: children) to break their necks back there. Both parts of the yard are surrounded by six foot wooden fences. There are no holes either under or in the fences. There are no hand, foot, or paw holds. Yet Bandit has gotten out twice. Whatever it is that she’s doing to get out, it has to be something that the other three aren’t capable of…or are too smart to try!

It’s nervewracking when she does this. The street the backyard runs along is not a residential street. It’s six lanes of 45mph traffic. Fortunately, this is one of the top ten most pet-friendly cities in this country. Bandit and all her fur-siblings have three tags on their collars: the requisite rabies tag, a tag with name and address, and the Get Me Home tag from Merial. Next on the agenda is microchipping!

I took River with me to the guild meeting. It was nice to be able to weave wherever I want, and of course, many people thought she was just adorable. I even participated in the show and tell this time. I brought the black sampler of the weaves from the Weaver’s Idea Book, the table runner-slash-mat, and the inkle pouch with the gusset. I hate public speaking, no matter how small the forum. I’m never comfortable, but my little presentation was well received! That felt good, but it was as nerve-jangling as Bandit’s escapes!

Oh! I bought a new reed for River from Green Valley Weavers and Knitters, since she’s been my buddy lately. The new one is a ten dent reed, for finer yarn. When I can, I will also get her the twelve dent reed, but they didn’t have any in stock the other day. And naturally, I couldn’t just leave with the one item I had ostensibly gone for. Nooooo, I had to wander around and buy yarn, and I also broke down and bought knitting needles. I know, I know…it’s not my favorite fiber art, although I do know the basics, thanks to my mom, who was an avid knitter. It’s just so sssssllllllloooooooowwwww! I don’t have the patience for it. If I crocheted for the same amount of time as knitting, the resulting fabric is generally several times larger. I have admiration for those who have the patience to knit entire garments. I can only make it through a scarf if I force myself. It’s been so many years since I tried, though, that I decided to give it a shot again. Funny, I hadn’t forgotten a thing, and it makes me wish Mom were still here to share it with. Enjoy your parents while you have them. It never lasts as long as you’d like.

On a less depressing note, I am still playing with the Weaver’s Idea Book. With the new reed, I decided to try the Log Cabin design. It isn’t working out the way I’d hoped, so I’m going to have to figure out what I did wrong. It’s still pretty, but it is most definitely not Log Cabin!

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