Crazy as a Loom

Monday, December 22, 2008

I don't mind winter so much when there is sun. And today, even though the snow was deep, trudging out to unthaw the heat line, the sun was awesome. In the house, it streams through the old curvy glass windows, and everything feels better when it does.
This photo is of a high cranberry bush on the side of the house. I just love the vibrant red color of the berries against the backdrop of all the snow.
Heating a 200+ year old house is a daily challenge. While there is an old oil furnace in the cellar, that I call the "volkswagen", it is now only a backup. I have a pellet stove in the living room, a kerosene fired Monitor heater in the dining room, and a gas fired Monitor in the coldest part of the house, the old kitchen. Unfortunately, the kerosene Monitor refuses to run when the temperature falls below 12 degrees. Then I have to trudge out there and pour steaming hot water over the pipe that comes out of the kerosene tank. But today, I did it a few times, and it still wouldn't run. There is no insulation in the walls, the windows are not insulated, and the ceilings are high. You don't walk barefoot, or go without a sweater. I guess it is a reminder about how people lived in times past. You keep busy, or you stay close to the stove.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

BIG blue jean rug!!!!!

WOW! Here it is. A blue jean rug in three pieces, waiting to be sewn into one huge 11' x 15' rug. It was such an incredible job, and I am very glad it is done. The best part of all is that the three pieces are almost PERFECT in length. They match. Whew. Anyone who has ever done this knows how crucial, and how touchy, that can be.
When it is sewn together, and packed up, and weighed, we will know how many pounds of blue jeans it took to weave this rug. I know my stacks of jean legs went down drastically.
Since it is Christmas week, and I have pies to make, and some presents still to buy, I am not tackling much at the studio. I will probably put a new warp on the Toika for a 7 ft rug that I will start next week. And I may weave a few placemats.
I am starting to think about New Year's Resolutions. Actually, I have been mulling them over for awhile. I like January. It has such a "clean slate" feeling to it. A brand new start. No matter what has gone before, January seems like a chance to do it differently. This January, I am going to do inventory of all my stock in the studio. And I am going to try to keep track of it better, with a brand new system. I am also going to get myself acquainted with Quick Books. I bought the book "Quick Books for Dummies", but I think I may need to hire someone to help me get started anyway.
That's embarrassing, but oh, so true.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Snow, sleet, freezing rain.

Take your pick.
My student cancelled, due to the bad roads, so I made good use of my day. I hemmed a 5 x 6 blue jean rug, and also hemmed one of the blue jean panels for an 11 x 15 custom rug. Then I cut and sewed strips of blue jeans for the third panel, which we are weaving tomorrow. The three panels will "rest" over the weekend, and find their destined length, and then I will sew them together.
I cleaned the back porch, and unpacked 8 boxes of cones of weaving fibers. Beautiful colors, and I will have them up on my web site soon.
The gas man came and hooked up my Monitor heater, which is in the old end of the house, and hopefully now, I won't shiver constantly when I am working out there.
I stayed warm today, because I have finally figured out that the only way to heat my 220 year old house is to heat it the way they would have when they built it, one room at a time. There are two furnaces in the old coal furnace and an oil furnace. The coal furnace is huge, and will probably never get out of the cellar, because no,one will ever want to dismantle it. There used to be a metal grate in the floor above it, probably someone thought it would be the answer to the cold house, but I doubt that it was. And the oil furnace, hot air, is still functional, but last year it sucked up $5000 worth of fuel oil, and didn't keep the house all that toasty either.
So now I have several heat options.
I have a very large pellet stove in the living room, and it pumps out some serious heat. In the dining room, I have a Monitor heater that runs on kerosene. It keeps that part of the house very comfortable. There is a gas fireplace in the old living room, and now a gas Monitor in the old kitchen. I turn them all down when I leave, and when I am there, I turn them up. I can keep the room I am working in the most comfortable......and change when I move to another room. It is perfect. Of course, there are negatives. There is the hauling of the pellets, but I figure it is cheaper than the gym at the Y. And of course, there is still no heat upstairs. The front bedrooms might warm up if I opened the grates in the floor. But the two back bedrooms are brutally cold. The people who have lived in this house over the years were tough.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Blue Jean Rug

Working on a blue jean rug that will be HUGE. It is being woven in three parts, each one 59" wide, and 140" part is done, and the second is on the loom. I learned a valuable lesson today.....something I should have known, I guess. But sometimes, I am my own worst enemy. I have been struggling to weave the first of these 3 rugs by myself, with my rolling stool. I have done some 4 ft wide rugs this way, and they are actually quite doable. But yesterday, I was at the loom all day, and it just seemed to be alot more work than it was fun. And even though weaving is work, it is usually fun for me. I wasn't making a lot of headway, and I could see the whole job taking a lot longer than I had planned on. So I measured my progress and figured out how many inches I was doing per hour.
Today, I moved the rolling stool, and my apprentice/helper, Tammy, sat at one end of the bench, and I was at the other. It didn't take long to get into the swing of it, and it quickly became very apparent that THIS was the way it should be done. In one hour we wove over TWICE what I could do by myself in the same amount of time. Unbelievable.
And I have changed the way I sew the blue jeans together......mostly because the way I was doing it has not been very time effective.
I used to cut the blue jeans into strips, 3/4-1" wide, then I would sew the strips together at a 90 degree angle, then cut them apart, and then trim the excess fabric off the seam. Makes me tired just talking about it.
So for this rug, I have been cutting the blue jean legs off, squaring them up, and sewing the legs together. THEN, I cut them into strips with my Eastman chickadee cutter, and trim the excess. I figure it takes about 1/6 of the time it took to do it the other way, or maybe even less.
All this makes me realize how easy it is to get in a rut about the way you do things, and how important it is to be open to change, to allow new ideas to take shape.
And I love, love, love having an apprentice!

Thursday, December 11, 2008


This is what I love about rag rug weaving. The colors. These are a couple of rugs I made to match the fabric in the photo. Except that the request was for a "light and bright" rug. I usually
scour the studio for fabrics that will work. I paw through boxes in the attic, climb up on the ladder in the pantry to see all the rolls on the top shelves, and trudge out to the barn to see what I have stashed out there. I usually have a pile of samples that I cut off, then with several spools of warp thread, I lay them all out to see what will work. When I figure out what I want, I get a plastic bin, and start cutting and winding strips of fabric until I have more than enough. This rug was woven with two strips at a time, instead of one wider strip. Winding two thinner strips of different colors on to the shuttle at the same time, creates a rug with a lot more life and movement, in my humble opinion.
I have to admit, once I have settled on colors, I design as I go, in a really hit or miss fashion.
I always love to see the result when I take the rug off the loom, and throw it down on the floor. Only then does it reveal whether or not it is going to work.
These rugs worked for me, and luckily, for the lady that I wove them for. That's what counts.

This week was a bust. An 11 ft rug that turned out 5" short, another rug that just didn't suit me, and a knee that persisted to cause me distress 24/7. So today, with snow turning to sleet, I quit early, came home and made beef stew and biscuits and brownies. I think I need a day off.

Monday, December 1, 2008

These are the Sol Mate Socks getting cut into strips. The cutter is an Eastman chickadee, which is worth its weight in gold. I have two of them, and can't imagine how I ever functioned without them. They will easily cut through 1/2" of fabric without hestitation.
Right now I have about 30 bags of socks looped and ready to be woven into rugs. Whew. I need to clone myself, I really do.
Today the studio was a joy to work was clean, and organized, and had an new feeling about it. It flowed. Hard to explain exactly. But it was joyful. Then Social Security called to say that they received my online application. They asked me a bunch of questions, and then said I was "all set", I would be receiving my first check in April.
I am so excited, and a little embarrassed that I am so excited. All these years of working as a nurse, shift work, working on holidays, worrying about my kids while I worked two jobs, working overtime, finally, it is almost part of my past.
Welcome to my world.

Because every thread counts

Because every thread counts