March 2010

Ergonomics is fascinating.  Understanding how to apply the science of the human body to the equipment we use takes a level of knowledge that is beyond me.  As I get older, however, the one thing I do understand is that the aches and pains from spinning, weaving, and knitting in the wrong position get harder to ignore.  My guild recently had a physical therapist come to a meeting to talk about the importance of taking breaks from fiber tasks to stretch muscles and loosen up.

Over a year ago, I made a sizeable investment by purchasing a custom-made weaving bench designed by Walt Turpening.  Walt has you measure your body in certain ways such as the length of your calves, the stretch of your arms, and the depth of the treadles on your loom.  Then you pick a color scheme and he weaves the seat to create a beautiful and ergonomic bench that works with your body.

The seat is woven in such a way that weaving doesn’t take a toll on your lower back and it looks pretty too.  I wanted a design reflecting the ocean with blue for the waves and tan for the sand.  You get the picture right?

I certainly have to take breaks from weaving once in a while, but this bench has been good for my body and keeps me weaving.  Unfortunately, what works for your loom doesn’t work for your spinning wheel.  I would have to order a bench with different measurements for that.  Time to save up.

By the way, if you’re interested in a Walt Turpening bench, prepare to be patient.  Last I heard, it’s a 24 month wait.

Fridays are pizza night in my family.  But honestly it gets tough at the end of the work week to get creative.  I mean, tomato-based sauce and mozzarella cheese can get a little tedious. Last week I decided to use some toppings out of my refrigerator, nothing purchased.  However, I will admit, a trip to my favorite Italian grocery, Gallucci’s, earlier in the week gave me some great raw materials to work with.  Here are the results.

I used extra virgin olive oil, Italian pesto, Italian salami, herbs, and chunks of ricotta salata.  On a crispy crust made by my husband, it was wonderful.  I think I’ll call it Pizza Gallucci.

My green and gold warp finally made it to the loom and I have completed two of the four mug rugs woven in doubleweave pick-up.  The goal was to chart cross-stitch celtic knots and designs on graph paper and translate it to weaving.  Here’s the results so far.

I’m pretty pleased with the design and the fact that I was able to pull off the translation to a chart.  Hope to get this project done over the weekend.

I saw a book on-line that charts Viking designs found by archeologists for knitters.  They are very similar to the celtic designs I’ve found including many forms of knots.  Makes sense.  The Vikings spent centuries murdering and pillaging the celtic world.  At least they left an artistic legacy in their destructive wake!

I’ve been weaving for just a few years and have managed to work through the drafts designed for the cloth I want to make.  A draft explains how to set up your loom for the threading, treadling, and tie-up.  I understood the process enough to get by.

Saturday, however, it all became much clearer.  Deborah Yorde of Craftsman Hill Fibers in Mt. Vernon, Ohio visited our guild for a one-day workshop on understanding and designing drafts for woven cloth.  She had us graph out the drawdown which is what the cloth will look like on paper when you consider all the elements.  Then we took exisiting cloth and worked backwards by charting each weft and warp.

Deborah says understanding drafts is foundational to weaving.  I couldn’t agree more.  In fact I learned a rather simple but critical fact.  I never knew why some twills were labeled 3/1 or 2/2.  She said it stands for 3 harnesses up and 1 down or 2 harnesses up and 2 down.  And the numbers should add up to the number of harnesses you are using on the loom.  Lightbulb switch went on.

Sometimes you need to go back to the basics.  I’ve been operating on limited information.  After Saturday, I feel a little more prepared to go forward as a better weaver.

It’s the day after St. Patricks Day, which will go on record as one of the nicest here in terms of weather.  The temperature climbed into the 60s and the day was sunny and beautiful.  My family went to the parade and when I got home from work, they picked me up and we made a beeline for my father-in-law’s corned beef and cabbage dinner.  My husband’s family is 100 percent Irish.  How an Scottish Protestant like me got into the the hallowed circle is still a mystery. 

Now, I could have posted some pictures of drunken celebrants at the downtown parade to illustrate St. Patrick’s Day but I thought this picture from NASA’s Goddard Space Center made a much more poignant statement about Ireland.  St. Patrick’s Day isn’t about green beer, loud mouth drunks, and cheesy leprechauns; it’s about a lovely land where the people are warm, kind and welcoming.  From out in space, the clouds parted and revealed the land of a thousand shades of green.

I’ve been to Ireland twice and loved it each and every time.  It’s a magical island full of beauty and quiet grace.

I have a special place in my heart for church architecture. Everything has meaning–the stained glass windows, the iconography, the symbols on the altar, even the layout of the sanctuary.  It represents the divine and the incarnation and it’s a comfort to pause each week and consider the larger picture of eternity.

One particular sculpture in my husband’s church has delighted me over the years.  Probably because I’ve never seen the Virgin Mary depicted in such a way. 

Who knew that Mary was a spinner?  If you look closely, she is spinning fiber from a distaff on a spinning wheel while Jesus and Joseph work at their carpentry. I love the implication that she created yarn in the midst of being mother to the Messiah.

I can’t say that my spinning or weaving reaches heavenly heights, but it’s nice to think that fiber was part of the daily rhythm of the Holy Family.

This was a week the sun came out in Cleveland…..for longer than a few minutes.  Actually for a few days.  And it felt grand!  But by the time my husband and I took our two boys to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History on Wednesday, the clouds had rolled in.  Damn.  We were really looking forward to going to the observatory.

But we traveled to University Circle anyway.  After all they have a great planetarium which shows the virtual night sky in any weather.

Jason, our guide, was informative and funny, in a brilliant sort of way.  After the program, he guided us to the rooftop for the observatory program and lo and behold, the March skies had cleared for the evening.

Clyde, another brilliant astronomer type, talked about what was visible that night.  The observatory houses a 10 1/2-inch refracting telescope built by the Warner & Swasey Co. of Cleveland in 1899.  That old telescope revealed the wonders of Saturn and its rings, Mars with a shadow of a polar ice cap, a binary star cluster (two stars that revolve around one another) and an interstellar nebulae.

We spend far too much time looking down, doing our daily tasks.  But it’s nice to get away from the computer, our desks, and our small interior world  and look up at the great expanse of sky. It makes me appreciate the enormity of the heavenly design.

I have a confession to make.  I’m in a torrid love affair with bread.  I’ve tried to break if off, god knows I’ve tried.  But I just can’t excise that deep connection in my soul with warm bread and melting butter.  I lick my fingers just thinking about it.

My husband understands.  He’s very progressive.  In fact he encourages it.  He visited the object of my passion this morning.

That’s right, he went to the Breadsmith in Lakewood, a community that takes a little work to drive to from our neighborhood.  But he was happy to do it….for me.

Their breads are scandalously scrumptious.

He brought 13 loaves of the  forbidden fruit home today to our lair.  Carb police be damned.  We’re having a party tonight…….but, shhhhhh, don’t tell anyone.

I finished graphing out my Celtic designs on graph paper last week, so I thought I’d get the project on the warping board Saturday.  But a red flag went up immediately when I looked at my cone of gold 5/2 cotton.  Uh-oh….looks a little thin.  Being an optimist, I forged ahead, hoping it might be at least close to enough.  NOT.  Halfway through, the cone came up empty.

Gold meets the end of the line

The gold looks forlorn against that ample green cone. 

I immediately got on-line and ordered a one pound cone from Halcyon Yarn.  I only hope it arrives this week to keep the project going.  This “quick” little project must be off the loom by the end of the month so I can warp it up again for the Painted Warps workshop in April.  But so far, I’m pleased with the colors.  You can’t go wrong with traditional Irish green and gold. 

I recently posted some pictures of a doubleweave pick up project I completed on some mug rugs.  That was the first time I tried the technique and I really enjoyed doing it on my table loom because of its compact size.  Doubleweave pick up involves threading the loom for two layers of fabric, then following a chart and picking up the threads you want in the pattern.  I use a large old knitting needle that belonged to my husband’s Irish grandmother.  It holds the threads at the surface of the top layer while the shuttle is thrown.  Treadling has to make it all work too.

The first time I tried pick up, I used the patterns in Weaver’s Craft magazine, but the author encouraged readers to try their own designs.  I am now working on graphing some Celtic designs I got out of a cross stitch pattern book.

On the right is a Celtic knot I took from the book.  I’ll have to adjust the margins to make sure the pattern weaves in the center of the mug rug.  My thoughts at this point are to use green and gold 5/2 cotton. 

My husband’s family is Irish to the core; mine skews to the Scottish/English side of the pond.  But I love Celtic designs, particularly the geometric symmetry of it all.  Hopefully I’ll get the time before St. Patrick’s Day to get this Irish inspired warp on my loom.

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