Wednesday, October 27, 2021

lessons learned at the loom

these photos represent three months of work. at the end of july, i began winding a warp in linen. i had chosen what are arguably swedish colors - two shades of blue, yellow and white. the stripes came out rather organically, i would listen to my intuition and then switch colors, creating some stripes wide and some thin, as the mood struck. we decided to call it julie's crazy stripes. 

as you may know, i weave at a little museum about 30km away from home. it's one of those places that have a kind of magic that's hard to explain. you just have to feel it. and you can feel it instantly when you step out of the car. you feel your shoulders relax and you breathe more deeply. 

i haven't done the project alone. the weaving group meets every wednesday and i can't always get there, thanks to being busy at work, so another person wound the warp onto the loom and threaded it through the heddles and prepared it. i got to do a little bit of this, so i learned about it as well, but it was mostly done by one of the other sweet old ladies.

the loom is from 1913 and i like to sit there and imagine all of the cloth that has been created on it. but it also means that she is a bit of a temperamental old thing and she needs getting used to. and yes, i think she's a she. though i'm not sure i can explain why. i just get a feminine impression when i sit at her. and lest you think all looms must be female, the one i wove my rag rugs on is definitely a boy. a young boy. 

there were multiple frustrations, because someone else set it up in my absence, it wasn't until i sat down and had woven 5-6cm that i discovered that there were a number of mistakes that needed to be fixed. that was frustrating and i'd be lying if i didn't admit that i had to take a deep breath and remind myself that i could just as easily have made the mistakes. threading 400+ thin threads through the heddles and the comb isn't an easy job and if you're interrupted, it's very easy to make a mistake.

but what you can't do is hide from that mistake. it shows itself very clearly and very quickly. a loom is an honest thing - it gives you what asked for and nothing more. so if you didn't set it up correctly, that will very quickly become evident. there's no fudging and no covering it up and just going on. mistakes are clear and obvious and it's best to just admit them and fix them before you move on. there's a life lesson in that, i'm sure. 

so we stopped, and we redid a whole lot. and i say we because i'm very grateful for the wise, experienced women at the museum, because they know how to fix such mistakes and they patiently show me how and help me. and i couldn't do any of it without them. and it's such a good lesson for me - asking for help. why is that so hard? why do we think we have to be perfect on the first try? why don't we give ourselves room to make mistakes and learn and grow? 

above all, this wise old loom teaches me patience. she's steady and predictable when you get to know her, but she doesn't hide anything - least of all my mistakes. she shows them to me clearly and she offers me the choice of living with them or undoing them and starting over. over the course of weaving these four linen tea towels, i have made both choices. i had a section of about 10-12cm that was so full of mistakes that i couldn't live with it. nor could i bear the idea of the time it would take to pull it all out. so i fixed what was wrong with the warp and then started anew. and i have that section of cloth and i'm going to make a pincushion or two of it, to remind me that even my mistakes can be useful. that feels like a powerful lesson. and i'm not even sure that i can fully appreciate it, but i'm going to try. 

elsewhere, there are small mistakes. a time or two when a single thread or two was a bit loose and so the thread got sent through on the wrong side with the shuttle. those i can live with. they can contribute to the charm of the piece. to show that it's handmade and that imperfections have their own beauty. that it was made by a fallible human and not a machine. 

and today, i finally dared to cut them apart. it feels like such an act of violence. i sewed a zigzag on the sewing machine on both sides along the places i was going to cut, so they wouldn't unravel and i wove a ribbon to serve as the straps for the towels. it was hard to cut that ribbon up as well. i spent so much time making sure every thread was right, that it felt like a violation to cut them up. but it also felt good. i sewed a hem on each end and i attached my handwoven ribbon. and it was satisfying. 

and now, they're soaking overnight in an enamel bowl of cold water. i will wash them tomorrow and that will bring them together into the soft, usable, absorbent tea towels they will become. and then i will let them dry and i will wrap them up and give them as gifts to two people special to me. and it will all have been worth three months of work and all of the lessons learned at the loom. 

Thursday, October 21, 2021

how does grief look?

as i said in my post the other day, one of the things i've been thinking about is the individual nature of grief. and how grief hits you at the strangest moments and in the strangest ways. 

maybe it's just autumn, and the changing of the seasons, but i think it started a few weeks ago. i went to a gourmet knitting day that someone i know holds regularly. she's an amazing knitter and even participated in the knitting equivalent of the great british baking show. only knitting. and in denmark. and since i eternally hope to learn to knit and i like food, i went. so there, in a room full of knitters, i found myself talking about my mom's alzheimer's and how on some level i hadn't forgiven her for it. 

i know how terrible that sounds.

but there you have it.

and i found myself explaining to them the way we found, at the height of my realization of how bad it was with mom in 2016, what we thought were dad's bowling balls in mom's car and discovered instead that it was a case full of pistols and a case full of ammo. and how i still feel shocked by that. and unable to forgive her for what she could have done with those weapons. in that moment of finding them, i clearly saw in my mind's eye, my beautiful, amazing daughter, knocking on mom's door to visit her and mom not recognizing her in the throes of her diseased brain and taking one of those guns and shooting her own granddaughter. that didn't happen, but the fact that it could have takes my breath away, still to this day, as i write these words. and i can't forgive her for it. i can't forgive her cracked brain - for having all those guns, for loading them into her car, for the shooting of her granddaughter that she didn't do. and i can't forgive the state of south dakota for renewing her fucking permit to carry just days after they took her driver's license. what kind of a fucked up world do we live in that that's even possible.

the lovely knitting ladies were fascinated and horrified that such a thing could happen. it couldn't happen in denmark, that's for sure. and though i didn't know them, they listened to me and understood me and gave me space and that was a great deal of comfort that i'm not sure i've felt before. and i wonder if explaining it all in danish put me an emotional step away from it that helped me. and i think it may have been a baby step towards forgiving her, though i haven't done so yet.

i'm more certain than ever that this grief thing is a process and one of which we have very little control. 

but in the days since, i've felt pangs of missing mom. weirdly, mostly in connection with putting on my socks. which i realize also sounds weird. mom was a sock snob and i have a lot of her high end socks in my sock drawer. and enough time has passed that most of them are quite threadbare from wear and in recent weeks, i've felt sorrow about that. like when her socks are gone, she will really be gone. though she's been gone for more than two years now and because of the disease, she was gone for quite a lot longer than that. 

why does my grief manifest in a sock? i've got multiple pairs in my darning basket, but i've yet to darn them. would darning them darn my own soul? would it help? is this how my grief looks?

at least i feel i've stopped telling myself how my grief should look and started accepting how it looks. for me, in my own individual situation. right here and now.  

Friday, October 15, 2021

so many things to ponder

whoa, it's been awhile. things have been busy. it's been a pretty intense period and there's no end in sight. i've been trying to take creative breaks - a lovely weekend away with my creative group, the yearly trip with my weaving group, going to weaving, going to a gourmet knitting day, a pampering event with a friend (think facial and foot bath), followed by an art show and a really nice lunch, several work trips to copenhagen - but it has all left little time to think about personal writing. i miss the way this space allowed me to process things and it would be nice to get back into the habit. odin knows there's plenty to process.

today, as i made dinner - a roast chicken, jerusalem artichokes freshly dug from the garden and some roasted beets, plus a salad with avocado, mango and tomato - i found myself pondering topics to write in the way that i used to and it made me think it would be nice to be back here again. 

things that crossed my mind...the need that everyone seems to have acquired to have a diagnosis, the latest james bond, growing older, the individual nature of grief, what lumke would have wanted to be could she have chosen anything, how to best talk about kitchens from a warm, sympathetic perspective, the natural order of adjectives (thanks, molly), an obsession with growing things from seeds extracted in the kitchen (see the mango plant above, which i started myself), old friends i got to see again this week, sharing what i love about copenhagen, our upcoming trip to arizona (i SO need a holiday), tomorrow's make-your-own-ravioli dinner with friends, what tattoo to get next (i'm thinking a cactus), the chestnut man on netflix. so many things to ponder and write about.  

i think i need to start blogging again like it's 2010 and no one is reading. because, after all, it always came back to me. and it's extremely likely that no one is reading.

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wow, what a story that was released on the day of the seafarer a few months ago (yes, i started this post awhile ago). tales of politics, containers, big tobacco, cancer and whitewashed company histories. i worked for maersk for 5 years and never even heard a whisper of this - only that sealand represented the great maersk move towards containerization. that and the banana plantation that they bought somewhere in africa to push containerization of bananas, which were hauled on refrigerated bulk carriers before containers came along. 

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a national geographic piece on adult fans of lego that, if you ask me, doesn't give enough credit to the actual fans themselves. 

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best ad for wearing a bike helmet ever. the danes are just so good at these things.

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fantastic cooperation between marina abramovic and wetransfer.