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The Accidental Weaver

I hadn’t intended on becoming a weaver. It was all an accident. It wasn’t that I am not interested in weaving. Not at all. In fact, I am quite fascinated by all things textile. I just hadn’t planned on buying a loom….at least not then. As my skill at spinning developed over the past few years, it occurred to me that weaving might be a way to gain control over the rapidly accumulating stash of yarn I was producing. When I move back to Canada, I thought, I’ll take a course through the Ottawa Valley Weavers’ and Spinners’ Guild, where I had taken a number of spinning workshops, and see if weaving might be for me. The universe, however, had other plans.

No sooner had I accepted the possibility of weaving into my life, then looms kept appearing. Just before departure on our bicycle tour of Provence in September 2013, I received a flurry of personal messages on Ravelry. There was a four shaft floor loom for sale in Hungary and I should make inquiries, my contacts repeatedly told me. Nope, not interested. Eventually, they wore me down and I clicked one of the links I’d been sent. Wow. It was a stunner. Solid ash framework with a natural linseed oil finish was certainly appealing. And only two hours away from Budapest. I suggested it to the man, who surprised the heck out of me by saying that it sounded like a good idea. So off we went, only to drag a carload of pieces back mere days before going on holiday. Yes, we did put it back together before departure. Good thing, too. Our memories are…selective. And there were a lot of pieces.

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It took quite a while for me to work up the nerve to wind a warp for it. I read everything I could get my hands on and downloaded videos, in an effort to self-educate. I wove a long test strip and played with different weaving drafts from a book. This was eventually cut up to become dish cloths. With trepidation, I wound a striped warp for my first project, waffle weave tea towels. Nothing like jumping in at the deep end (a character flaw, I’m sure). There were mistakes, but they turned out quite well, don’t you think?

Cottolin waffle weave tea towels

Cottolin waffle weave tea towels

And then the move took over life. Fortunately, I had enrolled in a beginning weaving workshop before things got too crazy, so I spent four Saturdays this autumn learning the ins and outs of basic weaving from an experienced instructor. This made a huge difference! As soon as the classes were over, I wound up another warp for tea towels, intended as a Christmas gift. Um, yeah. I just finished them the other day, at the end of January. Fortunately, the recipient is okay with that.

This is the first towel.

IMG_0270There are four in the set, all woven on the same warp. I’m glad that this first one was in plain weave (simple over-under) because I was very rusty indeed. There are numerous skips in the finished towel due to my ineptitude. Oh well. Each towel became better….some old adage about practice comes to mind.

IMG_0273See how different a change in treadling can make the finished cloth? The third and fourth towels used the beige as weft to make a coordinating set.

IMG_0275_2When I was entering the home stretch on the last towel, I realized that I had a serious problem. Evidently I had made a big oops when putting the warp onto the loom and now had sagging threads. What to do? The internet and several books in my library came to the rescue and I realized that I had to add weight to each of these threads in order to provide sufficient tension to weave them. But how? Imagination and a trip to Home Depot saves the day!

Underneath it all

Underneath it all

Those old fashioned shower curtain rings are certainly multi-taskers! I used oversized washers, pattern weights, and coins in a plastic bag to add the necessary tension on each of the loose threads. Unfortunately the problem meant that the final towel in the set was 5 cm shorter than the others, but the only other alternative was to have a set of three and waste a lot of cotton thread.

IMG_0298_2I think that it will be insignificant in use, don’t you? Here they are, all washed, hemmed, and ready to give to Mom. I hope she likes them.

So this afternoon, I started winding another warp. Another set of towels-to-be will keep me busy for the next little bit. And who knows what will come later?

Farewell, 2014

Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

That pretty much describes how I feel about the year that just came to a close. Sure, some good things happened, but the overwhelming feeling about the year is one of stress and things not going according to plan.

Oh, it started with promise. I was working on the first module in an online creative fibre and spinning course, Journey for the Golden Fleece. I was taking multiple classes at the gym: spinning (the other kind), Body Art (a fusion of disciplines, similar to a combination of yoga and pilates), a weight training programme, and weekly TRX training classes. A new-to-me floor loom had recently arrived and was a whole new fibery world was beckoning. Our social life was thriving, though we were aware that there would be changes afoot. You see, 2014 marked the time for my husband to be transferred out of the job in Budapest. We had applied for another position in Europe and were hopeful, but the reality is that few people are awarded back-to-back overseas postings. Life was looking pretty good.

The first twinges in my hip caused me a bit of concern, as I’d had a previous injury, but I modified my workouts a bit and kept on going. Eventually, however, I had to cut back on a number of my classes and add a more rigorous stretching regimen. It didn’t help; rather, things got worse. By Easter, I could barely walk without severe pain and limping. Visits to medical professionals revealed that the grinding sensation in my hip joint was caused by coxarthrosis, but that there was little to be done. Much of the past year has been spent in considerable pain, alleviated only after extensive chiropractic treatments.

The dominant event of 2014 was our overseas move. Though we were told fairly late in the winter that we would be returning to Canada, there was some question as to where, exactly, we would be living. Official notice didn’t arrive until mid-April, much later than typical due to budget issues in the government. So, instead of returning to the Kingston, Ontario, area where we own a home, we would be moving to Ottawa. This notice caused all sorts of angst while we sorted out how to deal with all the ramifications. A trip to Ottawa to locate a house to rent took place in May, and the ball was rolling. An overseas move is much more complicated than most people can imagine, as there are detailed household inventories to prepare (both for insurance purposes and Customs clearance), movers to deal with, and arrangements for the relocation of our dogs. The latter turned out to be far more complex (and expensive) than we had expected, as we could not have them travel with us. It seemed that every week brought a new challenge! Stress, we had it. We departed Budapest at the end of July and occupied a hotel until early September, when our belongings finally arrived in Canada. We were home!

If you think that this was the end of the moving saga, you would be mistaken. There was a considerable amount of damage to our property, mostly due to improper packing and inferior packing materials. The resulting claim has not yet been settled. Our car, shipped separately, did not arrive until several weeks after our household goods, also with some damages. And, for the trifecta, an adult child announced in early September that he was in crisis and would have to move back in with Mom and Dad. He continues to be an ongoing concern.

There have been some high notes in the midst of all the craziness this past year. I warped and wove my first pieces on the floor loom, as well as designed and made a woven wrap with handspun yarn on the rigid heddle loom. The man and I both took a weaving workshop this fall. We purchased a second floor loom at the end of November for weaving more complex pieces, hopefully as part of a small business endeavour to come. And we attended classes at New York Sheep and Wool Festival in October, where we also had the joy of meeting a number of people only known to us through Ravelry previously, some for as long as six years. I would really like to go back again in 2015. We have continued to enjoy cycling on a regular basis, both before and after the move. We found a terrific fitness facility close to our house in Ottawa. My husband has settled in well to his new position at work and has reconnected with many colleagues whom he has not seen in years. Our eldest son was married a few days before Christmas, in a lovely service that we were able to attend through the wonders of technology and Skype. One of our granddaughters held the laptop so we could see the ceremony. The marriage has increased our family by four and we are looking forward to spoiling all six grandchildren when we all get together! Of course, we have also been able to see friends and family that we have not seen in the years were were living so far from home.

Okay, in retrospect, maybe it wasn’t the most awful year on the books. Still, I’m glad to have it over and done with. May 2015 be a wonderful one for all of us!

Playing in the (Sour)Dough

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A chat on Ravelry about hot cross buns got the husband and I searching for recipes. Since we have a well-established sourdough starter, it only made sense to see if we could find something using it. But more than that, it had to have the right balance of spice and fruit with the evocative fragrance of memory. Our internet search netted this recipe from the Spice and More blog. It came together easily and the fragrance of the buns baking was mouthwatering.

Presenting “Not Cross Buns”:

YUM!

YUM!

Excuse me while I put the tea kettle on.

Winter Wonderland

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Why yes, I am in Italy. Enjoying a little coffee and biscotti after a day of very enjoyable snowshoeing. There will be photos, but not tonight. I doubt I’m going to be lasting much longer than it takes to get ready for bed. It is a good exhausted.

The Year That Was

Like many people, I find myself at the close of a year looking back at the events that have shaped my life over the past twelve months. It has certainly been an interesting one. While I have been adjusting to life in a foreign country, I have also been devoting a great deal of time to my personal development.

Last year for Christmas, I requested sessions with a personal trainer. Santa obliged. This has become an important aspect of my day to day life. I had never worked with a trainer before and was a bit unsure what to expect at the beginning. I have been challenged, pushed and cajoled into trying new and crazy things. I’ve ached. Oh, how I’ve ached. I have also made huge strides in my fitness level. Due to recurring injuries, I am no longer running and I really miss it. However, Anett and Tamás have worked hard to strengthen the affected area so that I may consider starting again, something that didn’t seem possible. I’ve discovered new ways to work out that are fun and effective, like suspension training and that crazy indoor cycling called spinning (not to be confused with real spinning). And I’m back in the pool, which makes me very happy. It has been, um, decades.

2012 was an exceptional year for creative development. I signed up for a couple of art classes on a whim and discovered a wonderful teacher who seems to be able to pull out my creativity. Her drawing classes got me putting pencil, charcoal, and brush to paper in a way that I haven’t experienced since I was in design school well over a decade ago. The figure classes she added in September have been amazing and I will be continuing with these into the new year. The artistic stimulation has carried over into my work with fibre. Whilst I haven’t been knitting as much as in the past few years, what I did work on was more challenging, frequently using my own handspun yarn. My spinning abilities have grown by leaps and bounds. I am now spinning with intent, playing with fibre preparation techniques such as combing, hackling and carding to produce a particular end yarn. And getting adventurous with art yarn. It has been so much fun. So too has using spindles more – I really like the low-tech aspect and the feeling of connection with women of centuries ago. In June, I gave in to long-term curiousity and purchased a small loom. At this point, I’ve only made a couple of scarves and tea towels, but this holds so much potential as a creative outlet for me. I can’t wait until I can weave yardage to sew into my own clothing designs.

Another central theme of the past year has been travel. I have been blessed with an extraordinary opportunity for exploring Europe through my husband’s job. We closed out 2011 with a snowshoeing trip to the Salzburg, Austria, area and will be starting 2013 with another snowshoeing vacation, this time to the Dolomites. In between, we have visited Vienna, Lisbon, Barcelona, Costa del Sol, Western Germany (near the border with the Netherlands), Paris, and Ireland. Whew! It makes me exhausted just thinking about how much packing and unpacking we’ve done! We have also continued to explore this exciting city of Budapest, learning more about its history and the customs of the Hungarian people.

The international community, the defence attaché community in particular, has been more than welcoming to us. We have experienced social activity like never before! From the Officer’s Ball in Vienna to the Marine Corps ball in Budapest to an Abba costume party, we have made new friends that we hope will last a lifetime. We will treasure the memories. It has indeed been fun.

2013 certainly has a lot to live up to!

Lest We Forget

Commonwealth Cemetery, Budapest, Hungary

Coordination is a Gift

Just wait until the colour comes up….

One which I’ve evidently never been given. If you have some extra lying around, I’d appreciate it if you could send it my way.

The yarn that I whacked against the side of the tub turned out beautifully though.

Three Irish Girls Merino, in the colourway Flowering Cherry

It is destined to be used in a hat that I volunteered to test knit. The designer seems to have been sidetracked and hasn’t sent me the pattern yet. Which is just as well. Because my finger hurts too much to knit.