Sunday, May 31, 2020

Do You Know What Love Is?

The month of May has been challenging for oh so many reasons.  At the beginning of the month I felt really lost.  Unable to find joy in my usual distractions of spinning and tapestry weaving.  Needing an outlet, I started exploring slow stitching.  I found the blog of Claire Wellesley Smith and purchased her book Slow Stitch and was happily engaged.  On May 4th, I decided I would just mindfully stitch during the month of May.  No plan or focus on product just a record of my days.

This is some linen dyed with black walnut hulls.  This has been my constant companion, knowing it could not be finished before May 31st kept me working slowly and mindfully.  Incorporating moments big and small.

The moss from our mother's day hike memorialized in thread.  I also added an old washer I picked up in a parking lot and a bottle cap.  The cap has Reed's on it.  Dear hubs name is Reed and I put the cap on this to remind me of  a tender moment.  He is Republican and I am a  yellow dog Democrat, sometimes I have to remind myself that I love him in spite of that.

I also discovered the work of Jude Hill and her wonderful blog.  Her work is so delightful and her observations on life so thoughtful.  I especially love her beasts.  I decided I needed to create one.  I decided my inner beast, at least for the last week has been a really pissed off bunny rabbit.  I have named this "The Terrible Awful No Good Hare Day."

Everybody needs a needle book so I made myself one.  I have planned a couple of slow stitch projects for June.  I will continue down this rabbit hole
for now.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020


It is hard to know what to share.  With so much uncertainty and most all my outside activities curtailed it is a challenge to put thoughts into a perspective that is not downright depressing.  When the pandemic started and life began to change, spindle spinning, and tapestry weaving were both refuge and outlet.   I dove into both with a fervor, anxious to calm and center myself and discharge some of my feelings of anxiety, anger and sadness.  I love my little tapestries that resulted from this.

It was calming and energizing at the same time until it wasn’t.  It was almost like chewing bubble gum.  It’s all sweetness and bubbles until it loses flavor and sits in your mouth like a tasteless wad.  My fervor was gone. My big 38-inch loom was warped and ready as was my little Mirrix Saffron.  I could not get excited about either project.  I couldn’t muster any excitement for tapestry period.

 I watch all the tapestry artists I admire post beautiful and compelling work and question the worth of my efforts.  It is a blessing to be in contact with talented artists whose work I admire.  The trick is how to silence my inner critic who wants to goad me to weave more, weave better and weave faster!

COVID Spring

Losing my interest and joy in tapestry weaving would have been unfathomable to me a month ago when weaving COVID Spring.  It sucks.  I have been trying to puzzle it out. I have struggled with depression for most of my adult life but have successfully remained medicated and stable for years.  This feels different.  Everything has changed for everybody.  Some people have lost lives, loved ones, jobs and businesses.  I am fortunate to have my family, my job, my home and my needs met.  I have no right to complain about anything but damnit I am scared, and I am sad.  Not to mention incredibly angry.  Throw some old nurse (not on the frontlines) guilt on top of that and we have a perfect storm.

While trying to dissect the difference between ennui and depression, I came across a word that perfectly captured my imperfect feelings.  Weltschmerz or world weariness.  German for “world pain,” describes an emotional response to the perceived mismatch between how we envision the world should be and how it is now in real life.

I am sheltered in my home and my family is healthy.  Yeah, yeah, I am privileged and grateful, but I miss my friends, my guild, bookstores, restaurant meals, camping, fiber festivals and weaving conferences.  I can hold the thankfulness in my heart as well as the darker feelings that I hesitate to express.

It is okay that I did not weave a masterpiece during quarantine.  Maintaining my sanity, my relationships, my job and my health are going to have to suffice.  Weave on dear friends or sit quietly and dream of weaving on when the loom calls.  No masterpiece,  today I am using french knots to replicate this moss on my slow stitch sampler.  My heart is warmed by Riley finding this moss on the forest floor during our hike and saving it for grandma. I am going to sit quietly, stitch and smile.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Blossom by Blossom

Blossom by blossom the spring begins.”
 — Algernon Charles Swinburne

Spring in North Carolina is a glorious time, blue, blue skies, flowers and birdsong everywhere.   This year, all that beauty is superimposed with the specter of illness and death.  So hard to hold both of these realities at the same time.

I walk outside and see my beloved hostas, yellow and purple irises.  The glory is there, the color is there but it is almost as if a thin black veil covers them all.

How to capture this feeling ?

I am so thankful for being able to ground myself with peaceful moments of running fiber and yarn through my hands.

COVID Spring was finished this evening.  

Tonight, the death toll in the United States exceeded 50,000.  Uncertainty seems to rule the day.  Yet, bloom by bloom spring is here and inspires hope and faith.

COVID Spring
April 24, 2020
9 inches by 9 inches
Wool warp with handspun weft.
8 ends per inch, woven on a Mirrix loom.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Change is the Only Constant

I want to remember this time.  Not only the events as we respond to this virus but my thoughts and feelings about these times.  It can be hard to sort out when everyday it seems our reality shifts.  Weaving tiny tapestries has been a lifesaver.

Even before the virus, my life was changing.  My boss of fifteen years retired and I assumed her duties.  I embraced the new responsibilities but worried about doing the job well.  I started spindle spinning and weaving little pieces to deal with the stress.  Then CO-VID 19.

A Walk in the Garden
Spinning and weaving during week one was about distraction and disbelief.

Social Distance

Week two involved a new vocabulary and puzzling out the new rules for social distance, working from home and growing anxiety .

Death by Cheeto

Week three, the feelings were not conflicted.  It was anger.  How many people would die due to our ineptitude?

Dark Thoughts
I just finished week four, was trying to sort out what was grief appropriate for our situation and what was underlying depression.  One of the challenges with dealing with depression is keeping tabs ( or trying to) on what are situational feelings  versus mood changes needing my attention.  I realized what I was experiencing was grief and loss. Grieving for all those losing family members and livelihoods and the loss of  being able to plan for the future.

Thank goodness for friends, family, my animals and fiber.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Small Comforts

I think last week was the hardest week of my thirty year nursing career.  I am a manager in the NC Department of Health and Human Services.  I am not on the frontline of caring for patients anymore and cannot imagine the stress on our doctors, nurses and hospital workers.

This week I found such comfort in spindle spinning.  There is something about the repetive motion and light touch required which forces me to relax and breathe

The picture above is my KCL spindle.  I love these modular spindles.  Being a tapestry weaver it allows me to weave small amounts of the colors, thickness and textures I want.

It has been great fun to spin these little Hobbledehoy battlings.  One or two on each removable shaft and then ply them on the KCL lazy kate for my weaving.

I am also really loving this tiny niddy noddy from NextLevelMade. I can wind my small bits of newly plied yarn on it and wash and dry it without removing it.

In keeping with the theme of small things, here is my Hokett loom in action.

Mr. Hokett has retired but some of his looms are still available and there are similar looms on Etsy.  I also have a tiny Mirrix which I am weaving a handspun piece on now.

I am playing with wedge weave variations on tiny landscapes.  It allows me to check out some design ideas.  I don't know what will become of these tiny taps.  But for this moment in time the spinning and weaving are like the rare perfume, a balm in Gilead.  Stay well my friends and find comfort in small things.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Precious is Relative

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language, and next year’s words await another voice.” T.S. Eliot

Happy New Year!  It matters not if it is a new decade or not, it is a New Year.  Today, I made sure to spend time at the tapestry loom.  It has been challenging to find time to weave other than weekends and holidays like today.  My new role at work means more hours and energy spent at the office.  It does make quiet moments to weave more precious.

I guess scarcity is a key determinant of value.  Take for example the green strips of plastic pictured above.  Once a plastic bag destined for the trash, I am now conserving each strip used and wondering how I can get more.  Unlike, the numerous yellow and white bags in my stash... IT IS THE ONLY ONE I HAVE!

I continue to weave with my handspun newspaper and plastic grocery bags and think  about consumption in general.  Most of us are pondering resolutions today.  Do you have any tapestry resolutions?  I was thinking about resolving to find my tapestry voice.   But I think I already have.

May 2020 unfold with straight, even warp and colorful, interesting wefts for all of us.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

An Old Mill - A Labor of Love

I have written about the Yadkin Valley Fiber Room before.  The recent tapestry show of Tapestry Weaver's South just completed it's run there.  Dear hubs and I traveled to Elkin Friday to pick up my tapestries  and do some Christmas shopping.  Leslie surprised us with a sneak peek of the new location, the old Chatham Mills facility.

The Chatham Manufacturing Company was started in 1877 along the Elkin River in Surry County North Carolina.   What started as a grist mill for corn, then a carding mill for wool became the largest textile mill in the United States.  It employed 3,500 people in the 1970s.

It is impossible to overstate the importance of this mill to the people and history of Elkin.  The mill employed workers from Surry, Allegheny, Wilkes and Yadkin counties.  They were known for the Chatham Blanket, first produced in 1893.

Many a soldier serving overseas in World Wars I and II were warmed and comforted by these blankets.  

The North Carolina Textile Encyclopedia  states that between 1975 and 1985, more than 800 mills closed nationwide, and employment in North Carolina's textile mills fell from an all-time high of 293,600 in 1973 to 211,300 in 1986. The North Carolina Department of Labor estimated only 27, 500 people were employed in textiles in the state in 2017.  Many former textile mills have been transformed into other uses unrelated to fiber or sit in ruin.  

Thankfully the Chatham Mill has a champion in Leslie Fesperman and her colleagues.   The mill will have new life as a fiber center.  A place for appreciating all the history it represents as well as the future it promises for fiber artists.  It is not hard to share Leslie's passion and vision for this place as a destination fiber center for people from all over the country.

Preston,  Leslie and Fiona check out the future weaving classroom.   Reeds anyone?  These are just a few from the mill.  Leslie is being very cautious about culling any equipment.   There are wonderful treasures here.  There will be a textile museum on site to preserve them along with a fully equipped dye studio and individual studios.

The center is having a huge yarn sale on December 6th and 7th.  Check it out here.  Thank you Leslie for the tour and for doing such important work!