Sunrise and Sunset

This is about two rugs.  Both were inspired by colors in the northwest sky, and both have a very similar look, but they developed in very different ways.

The first rug is very much like one of the previous rugs.  In fact, it’s the same colors, same yarns, except for some minor tweaks.  I just wanted to try it again.  I started by using yarn colors that alone are not that exciting, trying to put them together in some sort of meaningful way.  After laying out all the yarn I wanted to use, they kind of reminded me of the colors in the night sky after the sun sets, as dusk progresses to dawn.  Not so much a snapshot in time, but more of a time lapse image, if that makes sense.  Kind of in the same way that Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase represents more than one moment in time that you see all at once.

Rug 42

The rug is the second one like it, so I guess there is something I like about it, even if it isn’t really the colors one actually sees in the sky.

The design for the second rug came about very differently.  I was coming home on the ferry last fall around sunset and we watched the sun going down from the deck. I took this photo:

SunsetYeah great, beautiful sunset.  But then I tuned around to the east and saw this:Back Sunset Like a lot of people, I normally watch the sunset facing west, not the “back sunset”, or whatever you call it.   The western view is the usually the crowd pleaser, but this time the back sunset was really what intrigued me.  The subtlety of the colors really struck me – the gradual fade from blue to pink and the more sudden jump to blue-grey.

When I got back to the studio later, I saw a lot of those back sunset colors in the yarn on the shelves and thought I could make a rug with this new color palette.

Rug 43The colors might be a little more vivid than the original, but for the most part, but it kind of worked.

Up Next: some new takes on some old designs.






New Loom

Did I mention I got a new loom?  Cranbrook made by Norwood Looms, 8-shaft, 60″.  This loom is famous for being designed for Loja Saarinen at the Cranbrook School in Michigan.  Its design has since been passed on to two other loom makers.  (You can read more about the Cranbrook Loom’s history here.)  It’s nice and sturdy and suitable for the heavier weaving that I tend to do.  It’s been stored unassembled for the past two months and I had to completely rearrange the studio to accommodate it, but I finally got it set up.

Cranbrook LoomFor quite while now, I’ve been having trouble rug weaving on the Gilmore loom.  By “for a while” I mean “ever since I started weaving”.  While weaving rugs, it helps to have the project under high, even tension in order to pack the yarn down and keep the rug straight.  Whereas the old loom required a lot of fussing and fixes to get things to work right, the new loom is designed differently, so some of those problems don’t occur.  The old Gilmore loom is a great loom and I’ll be keeping it for other types of projects since it has some features the new one doesn’t have.

After a lot of research, I narrowed down my wishlist to three looms.  I also decided that a new one of any of these looms was just not in the budget.  So, I waited for a used one to come up for sale.

After a few months, I saw a listing that was a little more than I expected to pay, but pretty much what I wanted.  I could live with that.  In Bend, Oregon.  Oregon’s not that far away, right?  Ok, it would now be a 2-day trip, but I think I could do that.  Also, everything in Oregon is separated by mountains, and since this was January, there would be snow and tire checkpoints.  For those who don’t drive in Oregon, they have these really strict winter tire rules there.  I don’t really have a lot of snow driving experience, but I think my Subaru is equipped to handle that.  Oh, and the loom won’t fit in a car – I’ll need a truck or van.  Luckily, our little island car rental place had a van.  These little compromises just seemed to keep mounting, but none was a dealbreaker, so I gave in on all points and committed.

I drove the van, with it’s not-rated-for-snow-driving tires onto the ferry, through Washington and Oregon, and by detour around the worst of the mountains, hopefully avoiding any tire checkpoints.  I planned to get there around 3 pm.  I got there around 6 just as the rain turned to snow.

We took the loom apart and loaded everything in the van.  By the time I was ready to go, the snow had stopped, leaving about 2 inches on the ground.  Not too bad.  But even better, the formerly wet pavement underneath was now solidly frozen.  Other drivers could tell I was from out of town by the way I skidded around, barely in control.  They all just politely stopped a safe distance away and watched as I struggled – are you supposed to turn into the skid or the other way?  I stayed in Bend for the night as I didn’t dare do any more driving until morning.  I eventually made it back the next day, but not before some rather harrowing, white-knuckle driving over unplowed remote roads and 30 miles of fog so thick that I could only see about two car lengths in front of me.  Not really something I ever want to repeat.

When I got home, I had to put the new loom in storage so I could finish some already-planned projects.  So, at the beginning of April, I spent a week painting, cleaning, moving furniture around, and setting up the new loom.

Cranbrook Loom detail

It is pretty massive and is held together with these wedges that you pound into slots with a mallet.  Instead of crank handles to turn the beams, it has these pirate ship style wheels.  (Special appearance of Rug No. 1 in the background.)

I have yet to weave anything on the new loom, and I admit I’m a little intimidated.  I had buyers remorse that lasted for about a day – It’s new, it’s different. But I’m sure I’ll learn and adapt. Right?


No Eulogies, No Poems

I was a long and hard winter.  This winter seemed to be a season of loss for loved ones.  Or maybe with the loss of my own mother in January, I’m just hyper-aware.  In any case, it was a winter that, emotionally at least, I want to put behind me.

This isn’t a eulogy or memorial.  In fact, she expressly forbade that.  Her written last wishes declared that she did not want a ceremony, or memorial, or service of any kind. “No Eulogies and No Poems,” it stated.  It was the only part of her final wishes that was actually printed in bold.  I don’t know if she intended it, but that part still cracks me up.

I am glad I was there, however sad it was helplessly watching her deteriorate.  But no matter how much pain she might have been in, I do know that she was happy to have us all with her.  And I am thankful that it was mercifully quick – she lasted about a week from terminal diagnosis.

Even so, in her style, my last conversations with her were not about her or her illness, but about my weaving, my new loom, and what was happening here at the new place.  She always had encouragement and support for whatever I happened to be doing in my life.  And when I expressed an interest in weaving at the age of 40, she kind of went into overdrive.  For that, I am grateful.

Cranbrook loom turning wheel

Close up of the new loom.  The rug in the background is Rug No. 1 – the first one I made back in 2007.  In addition to encouragement, my mother gave me the yarn for this rug – wool yarn for the weft (Monte Tate yarn) along with the cotton warp.  But more than that, the loom, the shuttles, and even the books I used as reference (most notably Peter Collingwoods “Techniques of Rug Weaving”) – all the equipment needed to make this rug – came from my mother.  When I was done, I gave her the rug and she proudly put it in a place in the family room where everyone walked on it for almost 10 years.  My step-father thought I should keep it.  I only hope that its new prominent position – on the direct path to to the bathroom – will live up to its honorable past.  I think that would make Mom laugh.

Coming up: Back to work.