Covid Casualty…

Happy New Year everyone! I’m really hoping things get better in the world, but I’m a realist. Change may happen, but it is going to be slow…

Meanwhile… I got on the scale a week or so ago, and I sort of freaked out. I won’t mention the number, because many of you will say, wow, I’d love to be that weight, but the number isn’t what’s important. I’ve put on a decent amount of weight since I stopped going anywhere some nine months ago. I have done a lot of wonderful things in the studio since the quarantine began, no complaints there, and I’ve done remarkably well staying home, having my daughter here, and accomplishing a lot that I’m proud of. But I haven’t left the house. Except for a couple weeks ago, when my daughter and I got in the car, drove 3 hours to Maryland to a funeral home, didn’t get out of the car, but pulled in behind the hearse, and followed it to the cemetery. We stood well away from everyone by the gravesite. Watched as they buried my beloved step dad, waved to my mom from afar and drove back to NJ. That’s the extent of my outdoor activity in almost 10 months.

I’m eating well, sleeping well, creating well, and my body is starting to rebel. Because I’m not taking care of it. I’m not active and not moving. I don’t get out of my pajamas all day, I’m wearing really comfy clothing, and I saw this headline in the paper this morning.

Yeah, this is a thing, and I’ve got it.

So again, the number on the scale isn’t what’s important. And the fact that I can’t fit in half the gorgeous clothing in my closet that I’ve made over the last number of years, isn’t what’s so important. Though it is really pissing me off. I love my clothes, especially the handwoven ones.

The most important thing is the way I feel, and I feel like I’m bloated and out of shape and very very old. Which is ridiculous. I am home all the time. There is no reason I can’t take an hour or two a day and do some kind of thing to get me moving. I have never been one to exercise formally. Any routine I develop gets altered quickly because I’m always on the road. But I’m not now, and don’t plan to be for a long time.

My beloved friends encouraged me to just get out and walk. So I did. I mentioned that in my last post. And I’ve kept walking Every morning I’m forced to get out of my pajamas and put on real clothing, and I go outside. I look at the light, the trees, the birds, (geese are already flying north, huh…). I look at the new restaurant in town opening Monday, Dim Sum meets Cajun. The menu is entertaining if nothing else. Take out only. This morning I ran into a very very old friend and we had a lovely chat from opposite sides of the street. I got to breathe fresh air, and get the joints working. I’ve started walking over the viaduct, which gets my heart pumping.

When I woke up this morning, there was a new video from someone I subscribe to on YouTube, Yoga with Adriene. Apparently she is starting a 30 day series, today was day 1, after her short intro yesterday. I stopped doing yoga when the yoga studio in town closed in March and never reopened. One of the first Covid Casualties. I realized I am seriously out of shape.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to fit into my clothes again, but I can make new ones, and alter some of the ones that are alterable. And some of them will get cut up into other things. I finally finished this sweater, which I started probably early last year. I’ve always loved this pattern, and finally found the perfect yarn for it. The pattern is by C2Knits, Greta, and the yarn is 70% Merino and 30% Mulberry Silk, Cascade Yarns Venezia Sport, color 197 (which I’m sure was discontinued because I bought these skeins on clearance).

But I’m starting to feel remotely like a human being again, not feeling so old and creaky. And winter air is crisp and cold and delicious. I’m still not going out anywhere, but I’m moving my body, and venturing out past my street, staying well away from anyone I meet on the path, but it is beginning to make a difference.

Meanwhile, my daughter and I took the holidays off from filming/editing my YouTube videos. We have three in the can, waiting for edits and closed captioning, and will resume posting next Friday. There is a two parter on darts coming up next. So I took the hiatus to get my dye pots going, I have a lot of yarn that needs dyeing and creating color in winter is so rewarding.

I have a nice little system going, when I get back from my morning walk. First I take the dried yarns that were hanging overnight and skein them.

Then I put the dyed yarns that were sitting in the dyebath over night in the sink for the first rinse. They will get rinsed three times in total, the last rinse will have Synthrapol to restore the PH balance.

I start the next dyebath. The yarns will sit overnight in a large Visions Corning glass pot on a heating pad. The yarns are all cellulose, with an occasional silk thrown in, and I’m using Fiber Reactive Dyes, mostly from Pro Chemical.

Meanwhile I put the yarns I skeined up the day before in to soak in dye activator, they will sit in that bucket overnight.

And I wind new skeins for the following day. The whole process takes less than two hours, depending on how many interruptions there are. Like the morning I discovered the pond had emptied when lovingly gazing out at the waterfall while winding skeins. What a two day ordeal, finally had to get the pond guy to come and do a temporary rebuild of my waterfall, just to get me through until spring.

And finally I take the rinsed skeins and hang them to dry, so they can drip into the sink. They will be dry by morning.

And finally, I’ve started on a task, which I mentioned in my last post I think, which is 12 years overdue. I have been writing this blog now for over 12 years, more than 800 posts, and though I’ve instituted some plug-in back ups, I’ve been reading too much about hacked sites, major sites, to trust that my content will always be available. I think when I read that the McCall’s pattern printing service in Kansas, the only one of its kind in the US, was hacked a few months ago and can no longer access its data base to print patterns, I was sort of appalled. Independents who use their printing facilities are out of luck.

So post by post, working backwards, I’ve copied and pasted into word docs which get backed up each night into the cloud. I couldn’t restore a site from that but the content is mine and safe. I’ve been working feverishly on this, and have managed to work backwards to the middle of 2010.

What I didn’t expect is how haunting those posts would be. A lot happened in the world and in my life over the last 12 years. My kids grew up, my daughter did four years in college in Massachusetts. My son did boot camp and two deployments to the middle east. Hurricane Irene hit and devastated my town, and a year later Hurricane Sandy hit and devastated NJ. My husband was diagnosed with inoperable esophageal cancer and died nine months later.

All of it is documented there. Along with the design and execution of probably more than a hundred handwoven garments, scarves, garments from commercial fabrics, Knitted sweaters and socks, accessories, art works, watercolor painting, felted works, my entire creative life paralleling my personal life is all there. Some of the posts are hilarious, and some have made me cry into my wine. I haven’t read them all, I’m too busy copying and pasting them, but there are a few that caught my eye and I’m a bit overwhelmed.

There are a few take aways…

I will probably never again wear many of those garments I created and photographed on myself. There are a lot of them.

My life was entirely too crazy and bizarre. I seemed chronically tired and stressed and just moving on autopilot from one gig to the next. For 12 years. And that’s after I swore I’d never be in that place again after I went through my own bout with cancer 20 years ago.

And I can’t spell for shit. I’m noticing that the new version of Word Press has spell check. I don’t remember that. Because when I cut and paste each post into a Word Docx, Spellcheck just pops right up with all the errors I’ve made. Oops…

And I made some incredible amazing work, and am very very proud of all that I accomplished.

My daughter is planning to learn Adobe InDesign and reformat all of my written monographs into proper book form, still PDF’s but updating them into something that does justice to my brand, as she says. She is so funny. I’d like her to start with creating PDF’s of my blog posts, maybe a year at a time, so I can read them sequentially, laid out in a consistent format, and really curl up and read about my adventures. It will be the perfect thing to practice on.

When I started this blog, it was more of an exercise to see if I could, I already journaled almost nightly, but the blog gave me a way to add images and links and remember things I couldn’t in a regular journal. It has done that and more.

And so as I start this new year, I’ve spent the better part of last week looking back, really far back, and I’m pretty OK with what I see, and determined to treat myself more kindly in the future, to take care of me first, and if I never get on a plane again, except to travel somewhere exotic on a vacation, that will be OK too. I have my studio, my YouTube channel The Weaver Sews, I can still teach and reach students, and one day maybe have private students come to me. But getting out and walking every day, doing some yoga every day, and putting me first is kind of looking like a nice start to this new year.

Stay tuned everyone, I love you, stay safe, and look ahead to the future.

Hunkered Down…

This is a scary, unprecedented time we are living in, no one has a playbook for all that we are experiencing as a nation.  There are lots of opinions, lots of fur flying, lots of accusations, and lots of personal stories.  I use social media to some extent, I have more than 2200 friends on Facebook, many I don’t know, but most are either local friends, family or friends from the global fiber community, which makes me feel connected to a wonderful creative and thoughtful group of people. 

I pay attention to the news.  Peripherally.  I read the morning paper, I listen to NPR on the hour while listening to a public radio classical station.  I glance at news feeds from the AP and Reuters, and have subscriptions to the Washington Post and NY Times.  But mostly I just read the local NJ paper in the morning and get on with my day.  

Of course, NJ now has the second highest Covid-19 cases in the US, and the numbers double every other day.  It isn’t a question of if we will all get it, it is when and can the local hospitals handle the volume of really sick people.  So far it isn’t looking so good.  

That said, I turn to Facebook to see what my fiber friends are doing, to laugh, to find out what’s happening in their lives.  I love seeing photos of sunsets, snowy landscapes, spring blooming, handspun yarn, the latest tapestry or yardage or dishtowel on your loom, inspiration, cat and dog photos, grandchildren photos, wickedly funny cartoons, and for a brief half hour, I feel connected.  What I despise is seeing every other post an angry share of what the government is or is not doing depending on which side of the fence you are sitting on.  And I have dear friends who sit on both sides of that fence.  I’ve started hiding posts that have been shared from any news source.  That doesn’t seem to be helping.  Next effort is to start unfollowing friends who continue to rage at the news.  I get the news.  I get it from sources I trust to be truthful and informative.  Please share with me what you are working on, what happens in your personal lives, and breathe a little.  There is nothing much any of us can do but vote in November.

And so I will share what’s happening with me since this time of self quarantining.  To be perfectly honest here, and I’m a little embarrassed to even write this,  I have never been happier.  My entire calendar has been cancelled into June, and I’m waiting to see what happens with those workshops.  As much as I love my life, the travel, the students, the one thing I find myself desperately trying to find, is time.  Time to smell the proverbial roses.  Time to do some of the fun things I want to do.  Time to work in my studio, time to play an instrument or read or garden or just hang out.  And look at Facebook.  There is some gorgeous inspirational stuff out there if you can weed through the angry reposts.  

We continue to revamp the studio spaces, this morning the electricians came to repair the line to the shed, which will be a lovely woodshop, because well, you can’t have enough play places in the house. My electricians were desperate for work, and they would mostly be outside and in the crawl space, and I could communicate with them from the deck.  And Brianna and I last weekend, drove over to the storage unit, which is where all of my son’s belongings are held, to retrieve her couch.  Her beloved 400 pound monster of a couch, that belonged to her grandmother, that she won’t part with.  My friend with a truck, keeping his distance, brought over my trailer, and met us at the storage unit.  Brianna and I wheeled the sofa out of the unit on a couple of dollies.  The sofa sat in the trailer on the side of the house.  I had arranged for help getting it up to the second floor, but that help fell through.  So I looked at my daughter, and said, well, we are two strong and inventive women, (she is much stronger than I, but we are use to moving looms) and with a little bit of physics, and some brute strength on her part, we hauled that baby across the back yard, up the deck stairs, up the balcony stairs, turned it on its end to get it into my bedroom, rotated it in a contorted way, down the hall, up more stairs, and by removing a couple of doors, we managed to get it into her new bedroom, my old studio.  We hurt, we were exhausted, but we felt really accomplished.  Give two women no choice and see what they can do…

My days are simple, I get up, tend to the dogs, have my morning tea and look at the paper, and then I get to work.  I get to play in my lovely new studios, I have stuff to play with, and I stop for meals when I’m hungry. I run the vacuum occasionally, because I have three dogs and a cat and a fiber studio and my housekeeper is working from home, she sent instructions! (I stole that from Facebook).  My daughter is here, learning Illustrator, so we can begin to explore digitizing my patterns and making them available for download.  We are a long way away from that actually happening, but I have time now.  

There is always the fear that of course I or my children, who both live with me will get sick.  My son works 15 hour days at a high volume Target.  He is exposed to all kinds of craziness.  But I don’t live in fear.  I take each day as a gift.  I’ve been through a lot of drama and trauma in my life.  This too shall eventually pass.  For now, I had time to plant pansies and my garden is full of cold weather greens.  And the winter was so mild that my rosemary wintered over.

I have time to practice my recorder.  I’m trying to learn to play the Brandenburg Concerto #3, on Alto recorder, for a potential concert in December.  Challenging, but I have time to practice.  

I have time to read in the evenings.  I’ve read Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, and Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover. Both excellent reads.  I’m currently reading a southern ghost story, quite the beach read, called Winter Cottage by Mary Ellen Taylor (It was a $1.99 download).  An entertaining escape.  And we always have a 1000 piece puzzle going in the corner of the living room.

I have time to knit, I finished a summer shell I’ve been working on for too long, Harrisville silk and wool and their Rhodora pattern.  Just needs blocking and then the handwork and edge finishes.  

Started a new sweater, using Cascade Yarns Venezia Sport, Merino and Silk.  The pattern is from C2Knits, Greta.  I’ve wanted to make this one for a long time.  

And I took this handwoven yardage from last year and made a skirt.  The yardage is called Vertical Barriers.  It has multiple warps, mostly rayons, some hand dyed.  I used up a lot of stuff that was hiding out on the shelves.  The weft is some very old Maypole Nehalem Worsted 3 ply wool.  So the fabric fulled quite nicely.  There were only about 3 yards by the time I was finished, but there was some width to work with.  24epi.

Meanwhile, I wanted to create a swing skirt from  my swing dress pattern.  As I’m almost 65 years old, I do not have a waist, and skirts with waistbands are stupid at my age.  I much prefer a shaped waist facing, way more comfortable and easy to customize.  This was the original dress, and the resulting test skirt.  

I got to wear the skirt for our in house St. Patrick’s Day celebration, we had corned beef, cabbage, Irish Soda Bread and lots of Guinness.  

I wanted the reverse shaped waist facing to be more proportionate, but it couldn’t sit any lower, because there are pockets of course.  So I funneled the waist, shortened the darts a bit, and dove into the Vertical Barriers Yardage.  It was a challenge to cut out, because things had to match.  And there is a drop lining.  I had an old piece of rust colored Ultrasuede in the stash, which made for a lovely reverse waist facing.  The fit is so very comfortable.  And yes, I knit the sweater, from a silk wool mill end, doubled, in seed stitch, using a C2Knits pattern for the fit.

And now I’m off to explore a test garment, for the swing dress with sleeves.  Each new piece I do gives me about 20 new ideas.  Which is how life should be.  No matter how much I’m quarantined, there will never be enough hours for all the stuff that runs through my head.

Stay tuned…