Starting Afresh

The new year often makes me think about what I haven't done - much more so than what I've accomplished in the last 12 months. That said, I'm much more forward thinking this January than in the past. Perhaps it's because I've had time to actually think and do since leaving my job in June. And, while I've been an erratic blogger (at best), I'd like to try and be a bit more focused and deliberate here, with an eye toward documenting my fiber and textile work. Hopefully, this will help me organize what I'm doing a bit more and, with it being public, help keep me motivated and on track.

A group of friends started talking about fiber goals for the year and I managed to come up with a few dead simple ones. I think they're good, in line with what I *need* to do, and while not easily achievable, certainly possible.

1. Decrease the stash. Nothing comes in until what I have is sorted and deemed "stay" or "go". I've not renewed any of my clubs (how I will miss the sock patterns!) and I'm absolutely dedicated to getting a handle on what I have. There's plenty there to keep me busy and to push me to be creative. No problem!

2. Weave fabric for, and sew a garment. Not handspun in any way; rather, this is an exploratory effort to understand garment fabric and construction. A simple kimono-style jacket, in cotton, is exactly what I both want and need. Again, there's plenty in stash to do this, and even embellish a bit if I so chose.

3. Define and embark on a fiber/color study plan. I've spent a good chunk of time trying to understand just what it is about this craft that fascinates me so. And, unsurprisingly, I had a flash of insight whilst on a run. That inspiration gave me the thought of starting an exercise in fiber/color interplay focusing on the interaction between content and medium. Blending of fiber types and studying how they accept color and then behave in pieces is what I'm after. The next step is to work on a study plan to define specific experiments and projects. Fortunately, I'll have some time with a friend/mentor at the end of the month and I'm hoping she'll be willing to give some guidance.

So, that's it. It's rather a lot, really, but I'm excited about all of it. In between, there's getting ready for Art Fair in the fall (it's only 28 weeks away) and getting back into a routine of running and exercise. It's time to embrace fully this new life I've chosen. I played at it for a while, but it can be, and is, wholly satisfying. It's a year of good fortune and thanks. Let's begin!

And I'll do the books next week. :-)

The Art of the Start

I love starting things. I love that thrill of anticipation when the project is new, the end vision is clear, a plan is formed and nothing has yet gone wrong.

Solving and avoiding problems is a big part of what I do in the real world and just getting through a week at work can really deplete my reserves when it comes to being able to motivate myself and also deal with whatever mistakes and problems life at home throws my way. But, once I find the energy to address them, I nearly always end up learning something in the process.

Witness my handwoven mistakes towels. Here's what they look like:

They look great, don't they? In the process of finishing them, I had to resley portions of the reed (490 ends!), twice fix serious pattern threading errors, fix two crossed threads, fix tension issues and even deal with one snapped warp thread. The first problem was after 4 hours of work - and one that cost me nearly two weeks worth of progress simply because I wasn't in a position to find another 4h uninterrupted block of time. It felt like a brick wall that was miles high and topped with barbed wire. I did eventually cobble together an afternoon to address the problem (being sick has its advantages) and once I cleared that hurdle, all those other issues weren't quite so horrible. Each could be fixed rather quickly but their collective power came from being "one more thing" that I had done wrong. So many mistakes. So much "wasted time". But was it?

Knitting has, over the years, given me a gift - it's ok to start over. I can't always start over with weaving, but a smart teacher of mine told me to "finish things, even if they're wrong. You'll be surprised at the result." What's buried in there is the gentle reminder that mistakes are learning experiences. And you know what? She's right. In hindsight, I'm glad that I made those mistakes on my towels. I tried. I experienced. I learned. And on the next set of towels I make, I'll make different mistakes, or even some of the same ones, but hopefully they won't be so emotionally burdensome.

I love those towels. What a beautiful mistake.


As I mentioned in my previous post, I'm training for a marathon. That's not atypical for me as I enjoy running, even more so when I've got a goal to help pull me along. But, as I started thinking about this post, I realized that I'm training for so many other things as well.

Since I rediscovered handwork, most recently in the form of weaving, it's meant a lot to me to really be able to immerse myself in the learning process. That's allowed me to start training, and re-training, my brain to think beyond just analytics and the empirical - it's moved on to the creative and artistic side as well.

My life has really been formed by the scientific method and it's application to solving problems of all shapes and sizes. That's meant a heavy reliance on data, extrapolation, deduction and general reasoning. Spinning, weaving, knitting and these other wonderful fiber crafts are so much more (to me) about intuition and sense. There's most assuredly good science in there too - and the application of rigorous methods can really help in understanding a process or getting a specific result - but I find that I'm able to get results that satisfy me without applying so much rigor.

I also know that I won't grow/learn/become proficient if I don't start applying a bit more rigor in key places.

So, what does this boil down to? Training.

Oh and yes, I'm still running. Thank goodness this is a light week. I'm sick as a dog.

73 Runs Before I Sleep

It's December 30th and I really don't know where this year has gone. There's been good, bad and ugly (as usual) but my biggest area of bad and ugly was exercise. Or, the lack of it.

I let myself go this year. Quite a bit, actually. Sure, I'd had some injuries and the weather was bad, but it's like I fell out of love with running. There were times when it was fantastic, but those really were the exception rather than the rule.

Times like these require dire measures. Yup, it's time to call on The Marathon.

I've therefore selected the Avenue of the Giants marathon, run in 2011 on May 1st. Hal Higdon has once again provided the training regimen (I'll be using Intermediate I, for those playing along at home) and I'm inserting myself at Week 2. Given that I'm not a hopeless lout, that should be fine.

Oh, and just to make it stick, I'm firing up the 100 Pushups regimen again. The strength training is important, so I'm gonna do it.

Did I run yesterday? Yes. 5.5 miles.

Did I run today? Yes. 5 miles (or so. Calf complained).

Will I run tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday? Yes. 5, 7, and 9, respectively. By Monday morning, there'll only be 70 runs to go. Doesn't seem like all that many, does it?

A finished tote

Perhaps you'll remember a while back (Ok, a really long while back) my last post was about weaving for the Pick Up Tote from Woven Treasures. Well, I'd finished the weaving all the way back on Labor Day weekend and I've finally gotten the gumption to finish the bag.

My skills as a seamstress are laughable at best but I know enough to do pretty well. Anyway, here's the result:

Yup, it's a tote. The straps were sewn on relatively straight and the fabric wasn't stretched out of shape too much. As you can see, I added a gusset at the bottom to give it some structure.

Finally, when it came to finishing, I wasn't happy with the idea of just folding over the edges twice and top stitching. So, I used a length of bias tape to encase the open edges of both the woven fabric and the liner.

Now, having done this first one, I have a much better understanding of what I need to do differently next time so that my finished seams are better, the bag is more square, the handles are better and that it'll generally look more professional. Admittedly, I was in a bit of a rush this morning so I wasn't as careful about any of the details as I could have been. Honestly, I'm ok with that since this really was meant to be an experiment.

Whilst cleaning up, I nearly put away the belt shuttle for my inkle loom. As I had it in my hand, I chuckled a bit and thought, "No, this is going to be getting used, possibly even tonight. It can stay on the table."

I love this tote. Love.It. Don't worry Sara, the next one will be better. :-)