Study for Meditation Mat

Study for Meditation Mat
Handspun Tapestry Weaving

Monday, 27 April 2015

Almost Famous: Memoirs of the World's Oldest First Time Roadie

Young Mr. DD and I made it home this morning from our quick trip to Kelowna. Despite the glamour and excitement of the road, I don't think I'll be signing on to travel with a rock and roll band any time soon. I did discover that, somewhere outside of the Prairies, there are green plants and flowers:

Young Ms. DD's Backyard

When you spend +30 hours out of 68 riding in a van through 3 provinces, you have the time to observe a few things:

  • When you do the drive to Kelowna in one day, that stretch from Regina to Calgary is really, really long. And flat. It's longer and flatter on the way back.
  • Despite your best efforts not to do so, you will eat a lot of junk food and drink far too much coffee.
  • When you do the drive in one day, Gravol is your friend.
  • The Rockie Mountains are really, really spectacular. If you are not humbled in their presence, there is something wrong.
  • Some highway drivers are very, very stupid. You will not win a head on challenge with a semi, especially in the mountains. You will probably take out several other vehicles when you lose. You do not need that open slot four cars ahead that badly.
  • Life on the road as a musician is a lot of "load up, drive, set up, wait, play a bit, wait, tear down, load up and drive." 
  • Old cowboys playing country music can't resist the urge to flirt. With everyone.
  • It takes longer to check your ID than it does to do a round of shots, then leave the venue without checking out the entertainment. I don't understand the appeal of this.
  • Sigur Ros is a fine group for mountain music listening.
  • Brad Neely is a strange man with a strange (and wonderful) audio interpretation of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. (No, I had no idea who Brad Neely is or what this cd entailed. Look it up here.)
  • You can teach an old dog some new tricks.
  • Away from the city lights, away from the interference of humankind, there is nothing like the clear prairie night skies.
  • Musicians rarely get rich. In fact, making music usually costs them money. They rarely become famous. They do it because they love what they do, just as all artists do. We should honour our artists more.
The band is Son Howler. Check it out. See them perform live if you can. You won't regret it.

At the summit of Roger's Pass.


Thursday, 23 April 2015

Roadie: Heading Out on a Quick Trip

By the time you read this post, I'll be riding in a van packed with guitars, drums, amplifiers and various other equipment, heading out to Kelowna with two musicians to participate in a benefit Young Ms. DD has organized for The Okanagan Humane Society. We're driving out; Son Howler (aka Young Mr. DD and his drummer, D) are playing for the evening and then we're driving straight back. I'm supplying support and silent auction items. I've promised not to sing. Or dance. Or otherwise display my lack of musical talent.

I'm not the best traveller, so it may be a gruelling trip, but I'm excited to go and how many women my age can boast about being a roadie for a rock and roll band? It's an opportunity to visit with Ms. DD, whom I haven't seen since Christmas and to discuss her plans for her new home, which we'll get to see next month on a return visit. I'll ride through the mountains I love so much, smell the forests and hear the ravens call.

When I get back, I'll be planning for Level 4 of the Olds College Master Spinner Certificate Programme. It will be all Level 4, all the time, so I appreciate these breaks to the mountains perhaps more than I usually do.  The mountains and forests are healing places, places for the body, for the mind, places of my heart. Perhaps I'll see a bear or two, maybe glimpse a big-horned sheep, watch the rivers run. Perhaps I'll sleep in the darkness through the entire trip there and back. No matter. All will be well. (There will certainly be some flowers.) See you when I get back!

(Happy Birthday to my dear Young Mr. DD! May you be happy. May you be well.)

Thursday, 16 April 2015

It's In The Bag: Suggestions for a Travelling Tapestry Kit

A friend and I like to get together for communal fibre work. She weaves miniature cut pile rugs while I weave tapestry. I don't drive and looms are heavy, so for many years, I've carried around a makeup bag set up for weaving (and sometimes, spinning or knitting). I've been inspired by the recent rounds of photos in which artists display what's in their drawing kits and thought I'd show you what hides in my weaving bag.  Here's a photo of the bag, a zippered case with handles, cloth exterior with two large zippered plastic pouches inside. The exterior of the bag measures about 10 inches x 13 inches x 3 inches and it expands when packed:

The bag, opened and packed to go:

I've pared the contents down to my essentials, but the case holds a lot of materials and tools. At the moment, I'm working on my Don George loom, about 10 inches x 10 inches in total size, and the maximum size for this bag. In the photo below, you can also see a small cardboard bag loom, for sampling and plain good fun. The lower right side shows my collection of combs, wooden tapestry needles, a small zippered hand spun, hand woven bag which holds the combs and tapestry needles, an old knitting needle which I sometimes use as a shedding device, a dental pick for packing and lifting sections of weaving and scissors with blunt ends so they don't snag the tapestry or my yarns. Above that are my design tools: a tiny sketchbook, matchbook sized kit of drawing pencils, a permanent marker, a black pen and an old, old small format tapestry weaving book which I sometimes use to refresh my memory on weaving techniques. There are also a couple of spindles, including a toy wheel spindle which I made for travelling and a teeny, tiny Snyder turkish spindle which is really impractical, but impossibly cute, perfect for those times when I feel like yarn doodling. Next to the gold spindle is a container of coloured pencils, with a sharpener in the top:

Not shown are the yarns I use for weaving and my spinning fibres. They go in the bag last, as padding for everything else. Filled to capacity, the tapestry kit weighs under 2 pounds, so it's light and easy to carry. If we're heading out in our camper, I toss in a box of watercolour paints,a pad of watercolour paper and I'm good to go for a couple of weeks.

So, there you are: "Have weaving, will travel." If you have travelling tricks of your own to share, I'd love to hear about them. Thanks to Janette Meetze, a tapestry weaver who inspires me with her lovely, detailed sketches and whose work was the motivation for this post.


Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Sample Mix: Testing Ideas

A while back, I was sorting through my sketchbooks when I came across this 4 inch x 6 inch drawing:

It's labelled "Drawing from Tasare Tapestry India, July 17/09," and I have no idea what inspired it. A Google search of "Tasare Tapestry India" yielded many strange links and a few images, none of which remind me of this drawing. I suspect I intended it as a cartoon. Six years seemed long enough for it to be waiting for its transformation, so I hauled out one of my small Don George looms, enlarged the drawing and planned my weaving. The loom holds a piece that's approximately 8 inches x 8 inches, a nice sample size:

I've been sampling for a writing project and wanted to test a piece in which I used hand spun warp and wefts. The warp I used is a Romney singles, sett at approximately 8 epi; my wefts are my usual wool singles, with a bit of silk/wool thrown into the mix. For the twining, I used a 2 ply S/Z linen yarn, shown here as a singles, then after plying:

This is the first completely hand spun tapestry project I've done in a long time. The warp is holding up well, withstanding several false starts for warping and some restarted weaving. Reversing spinning/plying directions to S/Z, recommended when spinning flax, was a mistake for twining. Over the 16 inch span of the two rows of edging, the plies split so that it looks as if I twined with 2 singles. I won't do that again. I also won't use the pale green wool/silk blend in a larger piece, because it's too elastic and soft for tapestry weaving. It bounces in the shed as I'm beating and if you look closely, you'll see that there are little bubbles of weft poking up through the warps, giving me an unanticipated and undesirable textural effect. Overall, though, I like the design and see possibilities for a larger piece.

I've written about my casual, rather haphazard approach to weaving and design before, but the one thing I don't neglect is sampling for tapestry. Weaving small pieces before I tackle a larger tapestry has saved me a lot of time and trouble. Sampling shows me what will likely work - there are no guarantees - what needs modification and which should be abandoned. (Chakra Roots is the latest example of a larger work that isn't going to see the light of day any time soon.

I like the design of this small tapestry, tentatively titled, "Sea of Joy."(Young Master DD says it's "trippy." I told him that this was the stuff running around in my head all the time.) I'm not sure if I'll use a hand spun warp for something larger, but I now know that I can. I'm discovering which of my yarns to use on a larger scale and which to avoid. If there's a problem with a yarn in such a small sample, I can be sure the problem will be magnified as the piece gets bigger. I can see that there are flaws in the cartoon that need modification, but right now, my sample tells me that this work is something worth pursuing. 

By the way, if anyone knows what fascinated me about the elusive "Tasare Tapestry of India," please send me a link.


Saturday, 4 April 2015

The Wanderer: A Bit of a Meandering Post

Once in a while, the world spins far too quickly for me. I'd love to put out my hand and just stop the commotion for a bit, let things settle, catch my breath. These past few weeks have been like that - one minute, I'm Up; the next, everything comes crashing Down. Good things have happened. Other events have been not so pleasant. This is the usual stuff, of course, but when the waves come pounding, it's hard to keep myself on an even keel. I know that change will come, that change is a constant, but sometimes, it's hard to weather the storms.

Usually, when I feel out of balance, I write, but writing hasn't comforted me lately. Dark thoughts written down deepen into complaints, a lack of gratitude and discontentment, which seem more solid when I record them in a journal. Since writing hasn't offered solace, I've turned to other trusty guides - my feet, my mat and my wheel.

I discovered long ago that one of the most effective ways to cope when depression rolls over me is walking, or rather, wandering. Wandering, which is nothing more than walking without any purpose other than to put one foot in front of the other, soothes me in a way like no other physical activity. When I'm down, if I can push myself out the door (sometimes, that's a struggle), I roam our nearby park or scout through city streets. There's no destination, no plan. I walk, for hours and hours, if possible, but even a short jaunt helps. If I head to the park, I may take my camera to record some of the things I observe in what I've come to think of as my Sanctuary. Mostly, I just walk.

Quite often, I end up at the yoga studio. This week, I longed for slower, more gentle classes, so I wandered over for Renew and two meditation classes, one a Yoga Nidra and the other a class in which I absorbed the sounds of students playing meditation bowls. I crashed another Yoga Nidra that Donna was teaching at the university. When I was at home, I meditated before I rolled out of bed in the morning. When I didn't feel like hauling my butt off the couch, I meditated there. As my mood began to lift, I wandered again, this time into my fibre room where I spent a lot of time at my wheels, playing.

I'm preparing to teach Level 4 of the Master Spinner Programme at Olds College in June. When I was hired as an instructor for the programme, I decided that I would work through each of the workbooks in the five levels, so that I would have a thorough understanding of the requirements. Each level is intensive, with homework that requires many skeins of yarn to demonstrate one's competency. Over the past year, I worked on Levels 1 and 2. When I was asked teach Level 4, I went straight to it, only to discover that I can't do my best job of this level without working on Level 3, so I'm in the middle of a crash course on both. This involves a lot of sampling and calculating. Counting treadles, twists and wraps per inch is like counting the breath in meditation - they help me focus and stay present. If I want to do an accurate measure of angle of twist, I have to pay attention to the yarns in front of me. It does no good to dwell on past mistakes; I can only use them to improve the next batch of yarns. I could fret about the time constraints I'm under, about the deadlines which beckon from an ever closer horizon, but that doesn't get the work done. Staying in the moment and working through each requirement is the best way to head to shore.

The world is still spinning wildly, churning up the waves, knocking me about in my little boat, but I feel as if I'm regaining a bit of control over my reactions to being tossed here and there. Eventually, the waves will settle; life will calm again and we'll continue on our way. Until the next time.

Level 4 Samples: Base Yarn of 2 Ply Alpaca/Wool (Bottom); Tufted Yarn of 2 Ply Alpaca/Wool with Mohair Locks (Middle); 2 Ply Boucle of  Mohair Locks plied with Wool Singles