Saturday, February 3, 2018

The Endless Placemats (and a Couple of Pineapples)

Sigh  l really like the idea of weaving.  I like the feeling of history, of mystery, of magic.  Watching fabric form beneath your hands.  I was meant to weave.  Looms find me almost as often as cats do.  I have bought *one* loom--actually there were two table looms at an auction for $7.  Bob found four table looms that were being thrown away as a school got away from such hands-on activities (I re-homed five out of those six looms).  Bob pulled a large tapestry loom from a dumpster, and intercepted a large floor loom on its way to surplus.  I won a small inkle loom as a door prize.  A friend of my mother gave me a small floor loom.  Obviously, it is my destiny to weave.

I just don't actually do it.

When one thinks of weaving, one thinks of the actual process of making cloth.  It's rhythmic and mesmerizing.  One hand tosses the shuttle and then reaches up for the beater, pulling it forward just as the other hand catches the shuttle and lifts it out of the way.  The feet are in the ballet, changing the threads just before the beater slides into place.

But saying that's all there is to weaving is like saying all there is to cooking a fine dinner is arranging the food on the plates and lighting the candles.  There are a few preliminaries.  The warp is a bunch of separate threads all cut to a specific length (usually at least a couple of hundred of them)  They have to be tied to a back roller and rolled on, in order, under even tension.  Then one by one you thread them through a heddle (which determines the pattern) and the reed (which holds them at the proper distance apart) and then tie to the front roller--again, all under equal tension.  *Then* you start weaving.

So I came up with the brilliant plan of putting on enough warp to weave about eight placemats (because all the threading and stuff takes just as long for eight as it does for four so why not?)  That way, whenever I got the urge, I could go do the toss the shuttle thing.

That was, I think last March.  They're not done yet.  They were one of my New Year's resolutions--didn't quite get done in January.  It takes about 20 minutes do to the weaving for each placemat.  What gives?

A few years ago I had lunch at the home of a weaving friend (who actually weaves) and there were some almost-lovely placemats on the table that she had gotten as part of a weaving exchange.  Almost lovely, because at each end of them was a lumpy turned-under and sewn almost straight hem.  I didn't like the look of that.

There's a way around that.  Instead of folding under the end a couple of times and sewing it down, you can do a thing called "hemstitching" where you take four warp threads and do a little embroidery stitch around them, and continue on down the width of the weaving.  It looks nice.  What I hadn't thought all the way through was that I have some 360 warp ends on these, so that means 90 little groups at each end, or 180 little groups per placemat.  I'm not fast at this.  It takes me 20-30 minutes for each end.

So the rhythm of weaving is toss the shuttle for about 5 minutes to get a placemat started, then do hemstitching for 20 minutes.  Do the mesmerizing, meditative dance of weaving for 15 minutes--and it's time to hemstitch the other end.  Hence--placemats that have been on the loom for 10 months.

Pineapples have nothing to do with this.  But Bob wanted his pineapple in the blog, and why not?  He does successfully grow a few pineapples each year, but they're usually about 5 inches tall and a couple of bites each.  This year he grew two large (and very sweet) ones.  In less time than it's taken me to weave a half-dozen placemats.

And back to the reading list:

The Universal Traveler.  This is a sort of self-help, creative problem-solving book that showed up during the book purge.  I think it may have been a required book for a creativity class I had to take when I was getting my degree.  I enjoyed the class, but not this book--it's just a little too cheerful, as in "Unhappy in your job??  Try to hang out with the positive people at work, and think of ways to make your job seem like a vacation!"   Yeah, right.  It's leaving the house.

Madam Bovary.  Also showed up in the book purge.  A classic that I had never read.  *Very* Romantic era (came out in the 1850's) sturm und drang descent into dissolution and degradation.  I'm keeping this one.

Monsterology.  A friend gave me a gift card to Barnes and Noble for my birthday so I added this to my collection.  It's part of a series of children's books that I love.  Sepia toned pages, hand drawings, font that looks like handwriting--if someone recalls seeing a letter, there's an envelope with the letter in it, small artifacts.  I find these charming.

The Story of Colour; an Exploration.  Despite the many hundreds of physical books in the house, I downloaded this one on a whim (the positive side of e-books is that you don't have to make shelf space for them.  It's a study of the meanings of color in different cultures, and how a culture can actually change your perceptions of color.  It's a subject of interest to me.  Unfortunately, while this has some interesting information (I didn't know that there wasn't a word for the color orange in English until the 1500's when orange trees were introduced) it reads like a collection of high school essays.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

All. The. Books.

I have finished going through all of the books (well, all of the books in the guest room . . .)  We have three laundry baskets full that will go to Friends of the Library.  Does this mean that now I'll move out a bookshelf and move in my lady's desk and make the Gryffindor reading room?

Heck, no.  The remaining books have stretched and fluffed and those sitting sideways on top of other books are now actually on the shelf in a proper upright position and the end result is about 2 1/2 empty shelves.  Which Bob is eyeing with lust in his heart--his room is a bit overflowing (which is a major understatement).  Yeah--go ahead.  I'll come up with a Plan B for Gryffindor.

So has that been a waste of several days of going through a few hundred books?  No, actually.  I *like* books, and specifically, I like *my* books.  I was thinking that if I went to someone's house and saw these books on a shelf, that I would like to get to know this person.  And it's nice to have them dusted and tidy and a few have been selected for reading in the near future.   The hard part was giving up some of the ones that I actually like.  For example--since I was a kid, I've been a fan of Sherlock Holmes.  But how many "complete collections" do I really need?  (answer--two.  One with the original illustrations and an annotated version.  I like annotations when I'm feeling intellectual but find them distracting if I just want to enjoy the story).  How many copies of Beowulf do I need?  (answer--four.  One of my original textbook with linquistic and literary criticism, my Seamus Heany one because it was translated by a poet and kept the feel of the original, one from 1939 that was a give from a former boss and has some interesting art deco illustrations and one that's a graphic novel, aka comic book)

And you do find gems.  One is a collection of letters from famous women.  The book was published in 1929  (have I mentioned that I like *old* books?).  What gave me pause was the introduction, decrying the dying art of letter-writing:

"The typewriter has done away with the pen; a machine age, which was to have provided leisure, demands more hours in service to it than did the time of hand crafts and long working days.  The motion picture, the radio, the motor car, the washing machine are jealous masters. "

What would the author think of the millions of people now enslaved to their cell phones?

Bob's lighting a fire--I think I'll go read a book.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Winter! And Many Books

Last year I bemoaned the fact that we never had winter.  No moaning this year!  OK--it's not winter by Northern standards, but for Florida it's been pretty darned cold.  I even saw this:

Wild ice!  Something rarely seen here.  In Florida we have domesticated ice--it comes in regular cubes or half moons, from indoor freezers.  Not this free-form style, outside.
It almost feels like we've been on a vacation.  Saying things like "It's a good time of year to go out in the kayaks, but it's too cold right now."  Wearing sweatshirts and hats and jackets.  Things are familiar, but strange.
So that does mean spending time indoors (usually summer is our indoor time).  I've started on my first resolution--The Gryiffindor Reading Room.  I want to get that lady's writing table out of Chez Wicca.  Then I can move the small floor loom that's in the living room out there and actually use it.   I can't where it is--I've tried once, and the cats chewed up my weaving.  I've thought about re-homing it, but it's smaller than my big one and doesn't put as much stress on the weaving threads so it would be good for using my handspun.   Of course, then we'll have to build a cat tree to replace it because it's popular as a cat hangout now.  That's another project.
So the table will (hopefully) be moved to the guest room.  That's a bit of a challenge--right now, it holds a bed, a office armoire, my big floor loom, a table for the squirrel cage, and six bookshelves.  The only way to fit it in is to lose one of the bookshelves, which means (gasp!) rehoming some books.
There's two of them.  So that's what I've started on today--going through book by book and seeing what I can let go.  It's hard.   Some I'm just sentimental about--where I got them, what I was doing in that stage of my life.  Most are stuff I'm interested in, even if I haven't read them for years.  Some are like finding old friends--"hey, dude, I didn't know you were here. How's it going?"  But there are some that have just wandered in over the years, and maybe they can wander back out again.

I've managed to clear off two shelves' worth--but that may be temporary.  Before they go to the Friends of the Library, I have to let Bob look them over and I bet a bunch of them are going to go right back on the shelf--he's sentimental too.

Even if I don't get to move out a bookshelf, at least they'll be dusted and a bit more organized.  That's something, isn't it?