So a funny thing happened.
Well not funny exactly --
It was cool though--
At first --
not so much.
As you may recall,
last week on the blog post
I was blissing out about
my recent Milkweed immersion--
feeling, I can now say,
just a teensy bit smug.
"Yay! Look at me
with my newly fashioned
and cross arm spindle
making all kinds
of super nice yarn
out of Milkweed garden waste!
I love it soooo much.
It's almost like
Well, smug and thrilled.
At any rate,
practically the moment
I pushed 'send' on the newsletter
to let you know that the post was ready
(assuming you're on my mailing list),
I grabbed my beloved tools
and raced outside--
--only for the Milkweed
well, I'll let it
speak for itself.
Just so you know,
as my spindle fell to the ground
for the third time in a row,
I'm not Flax.
"Huh?" said I--
picking up the spindle
and checking for cracks.
Oh, I have nothing against the stuff --
it continued without pause.
Super strong -- soft-- agreeable--
a distant cousin of mine.
Slightly more uniform
since you all have been
manipulating for centuries
(or maybe it, you),
to suit your belief
in efficiency and production.
I mean --
all those precise tools
with their satisfying names:
rippling combs, flax breaks,
scutching knives, hackles and such,
that keep everyone in line.
It's just -- I'm not it.
Now, I can see why
you might think it reasonable
to think of me as such--
and maybe even believe
it is a compliment.
I mean --
I am a bast fiber
and you have been
doing your best
what with your strick
and your combing
and your carding of 'waste'--
your plying and measuring,
your calculation of yards per pound,
your dreaming of ends per inch,
and interior assignment
of relative 'goodness'
for sizing the strands
to 'tame' the stray
ends that stick out of the skeins.
And you've got to admit
I've been pretty agreeable.
As I said,
I am bast
and a certain kind of order
works with my nature.
So don't think I don't
appreciate the attention
It's just --
doesn't smooth, creamy cordage,
twisted an inch at a time,
(yours or mine),
suit us both
Well, doesn't it?
It's not just the pace--
(though really, what IS the hurry-
after all the fun we've had
playing hide and seek
amidst my stalks and outer bark,
getting to know each other
a strand at a time,
do you really want
to be done so soon?)
Nor is it entirely
though I have to admit
I like my every fiber
to be admired
no matter its length--
--even when you are
with your friends.
It's -- well--
I was kind of hoping
you might see
that "productive plant" thinking,
is not always the last word.
I mean we all know
you homo sapiens
with your big old brains,
are champion tool makers --
efficient and clever and all that--
and I'm sure your spindles
and what have you
have enhanced your life
--but is it necessary
to PROVE it all the time?
To worship control?
To make sure every plant
is named and categorized,
and succumbs to your will
by giving up its whole, diverse community
and all its marvelous friends
only to exist henceforward
with other genetically identical plants
as if only then
will it have validity---
and, dare I say it,
to relegate wild plants
to fairy tales
a relationship with one
is not an everyday sort of pleasure
to be enjoyed,
but rather a thing associated
with excessive female power
a thing to be subdued
(not that one doesn't relish
the plant power of cousin Nettle
I mean -- who wouldn't)?
continued the strands
draped across my lap,
that I was even there,
tame all the wild places
and cut back every prickly being
so you don't get scratched by the thorns
that are there to create little privacy--
and maybe keep you out of ki's business
for five seconds?
Or are you capable
of listening to (and believing)
in your own big brain
(equally good, it seems
at making you feel like a total loser
and the cleverest of all),
while hardly noticing
the odd bit of wisdom
a little plant
that is not flax,
Something to consider.
"Thanks," said I.
consider, that is."
And while we're at it,
added the loquacious fiber,
not quite as an afterthought,
how about taking
a big old breath
of hot summer air--
and having a sip of tea--
for life is short,
and here we are,
listening to the wind
and relishing the miracle
of your opposable thumb.
"Ok," said I
dipping my fingers
in a dish of coolish water
and adding a long white strand
to the ever-growing puddle
of cordage in my lap.
So I had an idea a few days ago --
--one of those un-ignorable
"must try this RIGHT NOW"
kind of ideas.
Can you guess what I was after?
It was not,
I have to say,
the coracle it apparently turned out to be.
No, I was going for something
a touch more practical--
something apropos to the world
in which we now live.
Cuz everyone needs a face mask, eh?
Clearly, the idea didn't work.
At least as an object.
As a concept though....
Pulled warp is something
I messed around with back in about 2003
when I was developing projects
for my book Kids Weaving.
The book includes several projects
for weaving on cardboard looms
including the Rag Doll Warrior you see here,
and I thought pulled warp would be
interesting and unexpected
(the turtle was adorable),
Unfortunately, it involved adding
another warping method,
so fell by the wayside.
What joy, then,
to suddenly remember
the existence of that long ago sketch
while chatting (via Zoom, as usual),
about the making of face masks
with some dear friends.
Would the idea be workable?
Not that I expected it to actually function,
or be a substitute for the 'real thing'
(whatever that is;
opinions, you've probably noticed,
vary widely--if perhaps not this widely).
Certainly choosing to weave my prototype
with used coffee filter yarn--
probably not the most
virus-proof material out there
even if spun from a material
with the word 'filter' in its name
and designed to have boiling water
poured through it --
did not earmark it
to have a life in the real world
But I am a weaver,
and pulled warp is a thing,
(check out Susan Iverson and Sue Weil ),
and I had a a PVC loom put together,
so why not try?
Wanting it to be a dense fabric
(viruses etc -- even if I wasn't planning to actually use it),
I wove it on the PVC loom because
I could work at 8 epi vs. the 4 of a cardboard loom.
Otherwise, cutting out the template
and using the cut out bits as spacers
was the same as in the original.
It also tickled my fancy
to use the PVC loom
since I'd developed it
specifically for Kids Weaving--
(cuz really a subversive Adult book)
The loom, as I've said before,
is based on Archie Brennan's Copper Pipe design,
and skips all the hard parts,
like cutting (and mining) copper,
drilling, braising, and using threaded rod.
It is also totally functional for tapestry.
And did I say cheap?
Anyway, the weaving went quite fast
since I just made stripes.
It seemed counterproductive to put slits into the fabric,
though it has occurred to me since
that a series of little slits all around the edge
would make it easy to thread a ribbon
for head attachment.
I made the mistake of using
rather wimpy cotton yarn for warp
so had/have to be super careful
pulling it into shape
and can't do the kind of fine tuning
that might actually make the thing
a little more useful.
Seine Twine would be MUCH better
Because...nose shaping, anyone?
I also made it too tall for my face
though the width (aprox 9"), is about right.
Right, that is,
if one were going to make one for real--
perhaps with a lining for security
and indigo dyed yarn
for the extra bit of magic
and some clever way to attatch it--
none of which
I'm actually going to do.
No, what I'm going to do,
when I have to leave my house
(which I hope is almost never),
is continue to wear one of the
elegant pleated cloth masks
sewn by my dear friend Nicole,
let this lovely creature
use my experiment for her boat
(because a gal really does need a coracle),
then return my attention
to the ever increasing light
in the Northern Hemisphere,
and the making of
the perfectly useless
I do have a sneaking hope
that someone will take the pulled warp face mask idea,
do something really wonderful with it,
so if you do, please let us all know!
if you want to make something else,
since this seems to be a project-based post
and because Kids Weaving is now out of print
(link is to ABE books where you can find used copies
since I don't make a penny from sales anyway--
never did, truth to tell),
I'm going to attach some pics
of the Rag Doll Warrior project
just in case you need them,
and end this super long post
and ridiculously long sentence.
stay home if you can,
be careful if you can't,
smile as often as possible,
cuz it helps.
--aka: three projects to keep
my holiday angst
1. a twined basket
dead leaf cordage
(iris, daylily, cornhusk)
and coffee filter yarn
photographed on yet another
hand spun coffee filter experiment.
that arrived in Idaho
its wrinkled pages stuck together,
and binding falling apart,
roughly but satisfyingly mended
with a lopsided eggbeater drill,
some hand spun linen,
and a couple of needles,
now the middle of being read
with enormous enjoyment
(extra powerful since it is once again sturdy)--
and with particular joy
because Kate's first chapter
is on mending....
3. a lopsided willow object
intended to hold gifts
(you know -- roll it around
and open the present
that falls out the hole...)
that turned out to be too big
to fit through any doors in my house
but which nevertheless
makes a fine blind
the rare and non-migratory
ten foot pink flamingo.
Life's grand and absurd, eh?
Might as well
let the good times roll on
(even when the gifts inside
Flinging my body through the sky
from one side of this continent
to the other,
is not a thing I enjoy.
Along with despair at its environmental aggression,
air travel induces in me
a kind of foggy spiritual disconnect--
as though, while my sleep deprived body
is slurping Dunkin Donuts coffee in Boston,
my self is scrambling across eastern Montana
crying, "WAIT FOR MEEEEEEE,"
only to begin the long trudge back to Idaho
(without even catching a glimpse of the Dakotas),
when my disconnected carcass
dumped back home.
As a weird wort of compensation however,
or perhaps a way to place myself,
travel does induce a kind of intent noticing
that can help remind me
that I once was whole --
and will be again.
The richness of my mother's
chair-side table for instance,
is a source of such joy,
with its books, computer,
seed and course catalogues,
pencils, pads, newspaper articles
and (because I was there and she's a supportive Mum),
her evolving Somewhat Slanted Sweater.
It was also a delight to feel
the sense of comfort and belonging
induced (at least in my heart and hands)
by tiny, yarn-filled rooms,
and the welcoming enthusiasm of Lily,
at Norwich Knits,
the new yarn shop in Norwich, Vermont
where we bought my mother's yarn.
Nor, indeed, could I fail to notice
the beatific inner glow
induced by a blissed out tour
of the Green Mountain Spinnery
in Putney, Vermont,
where I got to watch (and hear)
some of their venerable machinery in action.
The walls of yarn were fabulous too.
of lanolin and sheep
and yarn in the raw.
I also noticed (with surprise),
how the wool/organic cotton
skeins grabbed my attention.
It's not a blend I am likely to create or spin myself,
but I hadn't yet knit a Somewhat Slanted
in this weight yarn, and I look forward to wearing it.
So far, I know that it is really nice to knit,
the drape of the first square is fantastic
and that there is enough wool in the blend
to easily spit-splice when joining skeins
or knitting stripes.
(Hard, later, not to be aware that my minimalist travel bag
was significantly more difficult to buckle up).
Noticing these morels
was an unexpected
and delicious treat.
Somewhat less beguiling
was noticing the ticks sneaking up my legs
after the woodsy walk wherein the morels appeared,
though I was able to note--
with something approaching pleasure--
that my white hemp pants
made the little blood suckers
easy to spot.
Also, all the things I chose to bring with me
were blue, grey, brown or white,
so mixed and matched very well.
They are also all extremely comfortable,
perfectly practical (white hemp aside),
sources of psychological well being.
and almost entirely hand made.
The photos above include:
the aforementioned hemp pants,
my recently made linen shirt,
(which I tried not to wear every single day),
and an old favorite ankle-length blue cotton skirt,
that my friend Lodi once gave me
after she'd cut out the pattern pieces,
but before sewing.
The blue sweater ( knit last summer
and dunked in indigo a few days before my trip),
and the indigo Sarah-Dippity
had all the comfort, stretch, practicality
and general travel clothing perfection
I could have desired.
I also love how the indigo in both my garments connects
with the blue on the pocket of my sister Lyn's
patched and embroidered jacket
as we try to remember a long-ago clapping pattern
before I catch the bus to Boston.
Noticing Mount Rainier
was a nice reminder
that I was about to land in Seattle,
though I fervently hope my
long term views
closer to the ground:
a steady supply of
linsey-woolsey on the loom,
In the meantime,
the mug of mint/lemon balm tea
is quietly cooling
and the fog beginning to clear.
Artistic turmoil --what a thing.
I mean there I was,
longing to wear my new skirt,
when I was derailed by a hand full of dead leaves.
It seemed to be a thing I HAD to do--
yet it bugged me even as I worked on it.
The materials were a delight to be sure--
I mean what's not to love
about dead leaves
and used coffee filters?
And it was great fun to shift back and forth
between a sett of 4 and 8.
But the tapestry itself didn't satisfy--
indeed, once I got beyond a certain point,
every photo I took was out of focus.
But perhaps the whole idea
was out of focus --
more of an itch I had to scratch
than a compelling path.
I don't know.
But then you rarely know
until you try--
at least I don't.
And though unsatisfactory projects
are NOT my fave,
I'm pretty used to making things
I don't much care for--
It's just another part of this making life.
Ideally, if I can bring myself to pay attention
to the way different aspects
of the process
and the thing
make me feel,
(rather than just tossing idea, object and regret
straight into the compost pile,
pretending they never existed
and moving on),
such projects are sometimes more valuable
than those that make me sigh with satisfaction,
In the case of the leaf/paper tapestry,
here are three things I noticed:
1. Coffee Filter yarn and dead leaves are beautiful together
2. It would have been better had I included
the tiny house I refused to weave
(you've no idea how hard it is to NOT weave a tiny house
but I was trying -- well, just that.)
3. The dry leaves I'd put outside
to take advantage of the April showers,
still wanted to be used.
Happily, This last I could act on
immediately (while wearing my new skirt!)
Usually it happens in the middle of winter --
But there was a lot of snow this year.
And it was cold.
So the urge to tromp across field and marsh,
gather willow and red osier dogwood,
fill my studio with multi colored sticks,
and twist, twine and weave them into something,
didn't show up until a few days ago.
(same link as above--an old blog post about willow projects over the years,
so no need to click it twice)
Funny how such ideas appear--
the sudden irresistible need
to make a thing
I hadn't even imagined
ten seconds before.
Does this ever happen to you?
This one may have come upon me
because the snow was mostly gone,
or because the sky was blue
or because there was no tromping to be done--
merely a short meander
into our slowly greening back yard.
It may also have shown up
because my industrious family
was hard at work,
and I had to do my part.
As often happens with such projects,
I had/have no idea how to weave an orb.
so I made something up.
The willow wands and grape vines
were long and satisfyingly resilient.
The Pear shoots not so much,
but they are pretty,
and since Ana was cutting them,
it was less trouble to weave with them
than to put them in a pile.
I ended up making two
largish, round(ish) objects.
An heir and a spare for the flamingo, perhaps?
Guess, I'm done for now, though.
for taking another stab
at removing the grass stains
from the knees of my pants.
Nope -- not the burn carbon,
catch a cold on the airplane
on the way to someplace else
kind of holiday.
That sun is shining
into my very own studio.
Though I did go somewhere --
me and my big black rubber boots
strolled through the slush
to The Yarn Underground (my local yarn store),
where I was dazzled by the abundance
and walked home with
8 skeins of Harrisville flywheel yarn.
So did you know about this?
That you can buy yarn that has
already been carded and spun?
It's a little weird.
(One of the great things about spending most of my time in the studio
is that am a cheap date -- dazzled and overwhelmed by
the local downtown shops.
Of course I'm also dazzled by dead leaves
which is slightly less helpful to the local economy....).
But no matter how you look at it,
this feels like a mighty quick turnaround--
from a mad desire
for a long, dark grey Sarah-Dippity skirt,
to yarn in hand.
(if not exactly fast fashion, at least less glacial than my usual approach).
Said mad desire was initially generated
by a vision of the thing I wanted to wear that day,
the realization that I had the knowledge and technology to make it,
and a teensy bit of project envy generated by
slipping Backstrap Dialogues zines into envelopes
and mailing them to Sweden and Germany, Califorina and Kentucky
as Sarah-Dippity instructions are downloaded
to computers around the world.
At any rate, it felt (and still feels), rather marvelous
to take a mid winter break from my cellulosic adventures,
and start winding a warp almost before
shucking off the rubber boots.
Alas, my starry-eyed haste
also led to a teensy bit of
of a miscalculation --
this mill spun yarn is NOT
as much like mine as I thought.
I stormed about a bit and felt like an idiot
for making assumptions,
and for not weaving a sample --
or at least doing a yarn wrap.
But drawing this comic gave me an idea
(you might note that the little "but maybe if..." thought bubble
was written in with a different pen),
so I clipped together a ten dent rigid heddle
from four Schacht Variable Dent Rigid Heddle sections,
scribbled a new sketch for the skirt
and away I went.
(10 epi vs 12 epi meant weaving two narrower swaths of cloth since I did not want to buy more equipment, which leads to the skirt being made of four or maybe five 8" wide panels instead of three 12" ones-- though I don't have to decide for sure till later since the design is flexible and the final
shaping and fitting is in the knitting).
The broken threader was another bummer,
but this paper clip worked just fine--
indeed, maybe better than the diz threader
I've been using for the last couple of years.
Golly, I love makeshift solutions.
And I really love this loom.
The last few inches of the first warp
turned into cloth
just before I started to write this morning.
And there's a good chance
I'll start winding the second warp
shortly after I hit "post."
Perhaps next week I'll be knitting the skirt wedges
and my holiday will be done.
zoom zoom zoom!
But so restful.
And then back to real life.
If that is what this is.
I find myself curiously restless this morning --
Filled with ideas of what to write,
I still hop up every few minutes,
to make a cup of tea,
twirl my spindle in front of the stove,
or wander around the studio
admiring the morning light on my messes.
What, I wonder, will people see--
what will you see if you've signed up--
when Rebecca Mezoff and I
have our live webinar on Thursday?
(That's Thursday, 15 November at 10 AM Mountain Time).
I'll be sitting here in my studio,
right about where I'm sitting now
(though I'll have to do a little re-arranging
to avoid screen glare and so on),
and I wonder
if my working messes (un-styled),
are fit for company.
But then, so what?
It's tapestry we're going to be talking about,
and Rebecca and I have such love and enthusiasm for this medium --
are so entranced by all that it can do,
that sharing work in progress is half the point, right?
We had such a fantastic time
creating and filming the Fringeless Class,
that I'm really looking forward
to this spontaneous conversation.
Indeed, it thrills me to bits to think of you joining us.
(It's free and everything -- I think I"m supposed to say that)
But of course,
as Mrs. Ariadne Oliver said to Hercule Poirot,
"You never know what is going to happen"
when doing a live chat on the interwebs--
and that makes everything extra thrilling.
It also makes everything slightly odd---
at least in these days before we start--
because I'm talking a great deal about this talk,
(or at least writing about it on various platforms),
yet not actually doing it.
Of course that is the nature of plans --
travels and parties and events
and certainly tapestries--
never turn out as a gal imagines.
And who would want that anyway?
The reality of the moment is the point.
But I"m overflowing ideas
of things you might want to hear about
(not least these cuffs/ bangles and bracelets I've been making),
even as I know that some fabulous question
you're burning to have answered
will change everything!
So perhaps it would be best
to stop second guessing you
(much less myself)
and to go back to the loom,
nestle another green oval,
amidst the warm charcoal fuzz of shetland yarn,
and see if this cuff can be released from the loom
to wear on Thursday.
See you then!
ps -- If you are interested in hearing our conversation,
(or asking a question ahead of time)
but can't make it to the actual webinar,
it will be recorded,
If you register,
the 'bonuses' will still be available.
At least I think that is how it works!
pps -- I've had quite a time with faulty links and such
in the last couple of days,
so if for some reason the other links don't work
you can get to the registration page via Rebecca's BLOG
and click the big black button about half way down.
Well, right now I'm home in my studio,
but last week I was tromping through
a chunk of country that was once my home--
or at least the place I lived from the age of nineteen
till I was nearly twenty-six.
I left the woods in the fall of 1985
(in large part because there wasn't enough time to knit or spin),
but last week I filled my pack with essentials
and went back to check it out.
I have to admit that I embarked on the trip
hoping to come to some big old conclusions.
You know --
stuff about the past and present,
about time and change,
about life, the universe,
the wilderness and everything.
But though my feet knew how to walk on the trail,
and the smells were familiar and lovely,
and I didn't get any blisters,
big conclusions were elusive.
This Instagram Post
says most of what I know so far,
and perhaps more conclusions will show up in time.
I do know it was a great trip.
Even in the rain.
Or maybe especially in the rain?
And I also know
that plastic and wool
make excellent backcountry companions,
and that I am everlastingly grateful
to my motley collection of supplies,
and for the tiny miracles
of fire, friendship, feet and all.
Sarah C Swett