Crazy as a Loom

Thursday, January 29, 2009

A day in Kingsbury.

This is my world, day to day.
And this mosaic was fun.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Work stoppage!!!!

This is our very own Miss Puss, who just decided on the spur of the moment, that we should totally stop what we were doing, which was weaving a 6' wide gumball rug, and appreciate her beauty. So we did.........
Weaving a gumball rug this big is tedious. You can't wind the shuttle, you have to use it to send the weft through, but then you have to pull the weft through by hand. Very time consuming. And this rug was 16 ft long, so it was an incredible job. But it's done, and that feels really good.
Did I tell you that I LOVE this new camera??????
We are in for a big storm tomorrow, as much as 14" of snow. I know I can get to the studio, but have to be careful, since I have been known to get snowed in there. That was just last winter. My husband was not amused, but came to fetch me with the 4 wheel drive truck, and then white knuckled the entire drive home.
But hopefully, I'll just get a lot of weaving done, and the pellet stove will roar, and the snow will come down. With any luck.

My father was a junk man. Growing up with him was not just colorful, but even entered the realm of adventure. From a paneled bread truck, and later a pick up, I saw his world unfold, and listened to his often eccentric commentary.
Auctions were my favorite trips with Dad. While he scorned them because of their inflated prices, we went to some anyway, just to "check out the market". We usually never stayed past the noon meal, just long enough for my father to take a shrewd inventory, drop his card around to people he deemed important, smile more than usual, and talk in a voice I hardly recognized. He generally convinced a select handful of antique buffs that here was a friendly, helpful, if slightly simple, country bumpkin, who could probably get them just about anything they wanted for next to nothing, and surely had their best interests in mind. All untrue.
I particularly remember one auction, at a lakeside hotel, where we stayed til the end. The crowd was gathered around the long front porch, from where the auctioneer was offering up beds, dressers, chairs, silver, dishes, tablecloths, and other assorted items. I wasn't sure what was keeping my father there this long, but every time I approached him, he impatiently waved me away. I finally grew tired of it, and wandered off.
As it grew dark, the sounds of music lured me further around the bay, where all the locals were gathered for a square dance. I lurked outside the hall for a long time, watching through the open unscreened windows, as red-faced, red-necked farm boys whirled what seemed to me beautiful, fresh faced girls over the creaking wooden floor. Lantern lights flickered. Noone paid any attention to me.
The scene was purely magical; grown up people doing grown up things, a hot summer night, filled with music and laughter and flashing eyes. Mystery. Romance. I would see it in dreams long after.
Luckily, a sensible thought poked its way into my consciousness, and I made it back to the auction just as my father was starting to load up the truck. As long as I was there for the work end of it, he was happy. He never even asked me where I'd been.
We missed the ferry that night. And Dad kept laying on the horn, for what seemed like forever. He said he knew they were still over there, on the other side of the lake, and eventually he won out, because they came and got us; my dad with thoughts of all the profit he would make on his truckload of treasures, and me with thoughts of my own.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


Playing with my new camera today......I haven't really read all the manual, so I just took some on the automatic setting, and transferred them to the computer. It is so different to look through a view finder again. I remember when I bought my first 35mm camera, a Minolta XG-7. Back in the day it was all the rage. Sept, 1979. Wow.
I say "wow" a lot lately. Maybe it is my age.
Anyway, I bought the Minolta in Waterville, Maine, where I had moved for my first nursing job. I rented a house on China Lake, with my two oldest daughters, Brooke, who was 11 at the time. And Holly, who was 5. Wow. They were so young, and of course, so was I.
It was a great camera. I took tons of photos of them, color photos, and black and white. I experimented with the camera, didn't really know much about it, but knew when I liked the pictures it took. I had a 100-200 zoom, and that made all the difference.
One black and white photo I particularly remember was of Holly, in the back seat of my blue Toyota Corolla station wagon, with a melting ice cream cone in her hand, and big crocodile tears
rolling down her face.
That was a good time, and the camera told the tale. Some tears, some laughter, a lot of growing pains for all of us, and Maine, beautiful Maine.
When I was young, I wanted to write a book. I loved to read, and learned when I was 4, the product of an English mother in America, who wanted her only child to succeed. I read "Gone With The Wind" when I was 9, and then again when I was 10. I wrote poetry as a teenager, and long rambling stories of pursuit and tribulation. In later years, I discovered that I didn't really care as much for fiction, as I did for nonfiction, and realized that I would probably never write that book, after all.
Then yesterday, as I was writing my blog, I realized that it doesn't really matter if I never write a book. I always thought that someone had to read it, for it to be meaningful, and for me to feel complete. The fact is, I only have to write it down. It is as simple as that.

Friday, January 23, 2009

New camera

All week, I have been debating and researching a new camera. My web site depends on good photos. And sometimes, they are grainy, or the color is not as clear as I would like it to be. And I spend a lot of time taking pictures. As soon as I finish a couple of rugs, I tie fringe, and I take pictures. And I measure the rug, log it in to my inventory, make a tag for it, then put the pic on the computer. I find that if I don't get all this done right away, I lose track of what is, and what isn't, on my web site. And trying to figure it all out takes more time than I want to spend on it. But quite frequently, I will do all this, and find the picture to be less than acceptable, so I have to go back and do it all over again.
Now I am not the most organized person you will ever meet. But I do have this plan, every day, in my head. I know what I want to accomplish, and which direction I am headed. I don't always get it all done, because my nature demands that I "imagine" more than I am actually capable of completing in any given time. But I do like to stay on target. A camera that makes me do things over and over, to get it even close to what I want, does not really work for me.
But when I shopped online for cameras, I thought about spending the money, and the fact that January is typically a slow month. I dragged my feet, and found myself looking for a sign.
Yesterday, I had a really HUGE sale, three big rugs, and a smaller one. Wow! I was pumped!! I found a box big enough, packed them up, and left the studio a bit early. I went right to the local camera shop, Ray's Supply, in Glens Falls. Even though I search and research online, I like to buy locally. It is, in my opinion, the right thing to do. My husband and I do not agree on this one.
When I got there, with the big box of rugs in the back of my car, the first thing I saw was the UPS truck. Now, I have been jokingly been called a "UPS stalker", because when I leave the studio at the end of the day, with boxes in the car, I am headed to the big UPS center to drop them off. They are open from 3:30pm to 6:30pm ONLY. If the UPS man comes to the studio to drop something off, then I give him what I have. And occasionally I schedule a pickup. But that has its down side. First of all, they charge more to pick it up. But mostly, you never know when they will show up. It could be 3, 5, 7........and I don't want to wait for them. So I am always looking for the UPS man. If you can find a truck, and you have your paperwork done, they will take your boxes.
So here I was, at the camera shop, to buy my new camera, and the UPS truck was there just like he was waiting for me. I considered that an absolute sign that I was on the right track.
So after much discussion, I bought a Nikon D40. It is plenty of camera for me. Yes, I looked at the D90, the one that Ashton Kutcher sports around on all those big commercials. It was tempting, for sure. And of course, like a lot of people, I tend to think that the biggest, most expensive must be the best. But this time, I did my homework. And it wasn't the best camera for me.
The battery is charged, and I am off to the studio to try it out. I haven't read the whole manual, but I can still play a bit, until I do.
My husband, who reserves the right to tell me that I am out of control, surprised me when I showed him the camera. He said, " That is VERY nice. You deserve it".
Wow. Again.

Monday, January 19, 2009

My mentor. Chris Gustin.

Several years ago, when I was already what you would say is past my prime, I learned to weave. I wish I had learned to weave when I was young. Even though weaving had always fascinated me, I never found the time, or the opportunity to learn. I actually had an old barn loom at one point, but my alcoholic ex husband burned the barn down, and the loom with it. THAT'S another story.
Eventually, I took a basic weaving course, which I enjoyed, although the teacher was not very enthusiastic, and there were too many people in the class for my taste. But it got me started, and I bought a second hand loom before the 8 week course was over. In three months time, I had three looms. The very first was a little Leclerc Mira that was quite a mess. I managed to find Tom Beaudet, a lovely gentleman who helped me get it up and running, and who has been a good friend since. The second loom was a Harrisville studio loom, that my friend Shirley said was only good for kindling. While I am not wildly fond of the Harrisville, it did play a large part in my early weaving, and I have since used it to teach several other people to weave, including my dear friend, Penny, who took it home with her. The third loom was a big old Hammett counterbalance, which I bought from the "goat lady". Seriously. She lived in the barn, over her goats. The loom smelled so bad, the first thing I did was wash it down and deodorize it. Magazines, and a box of papers that she gave me with it had to be couldn't stay in the same room with them. If you have never smelled goat urine up close and personal, you would not understand. The Hammett, however, was a very nice loom.
By this time, I knew that rag rug weaving was my passion. I liked weaving towels, and scarves and such, but rag rugs, with all their recycled personality, with the vibrant colors and textures, they moved me. My first attempt was a blue jean rug. It was sad. I had major tension problems, and when it came off the loom, you could see through it. I threw it away.
So I went online. I found a website with blue jean rugs, and I bought one. I did everything but take it apart, and used it as my model, and started again. I eventually contacted Chris Gustin, the lady I bought it from, with questions. She graciously answered all my questions. Chris has been doing this for 30 years or so. She has lots of looms, and tons of fiber. For me, who was just starting out, she was, and is, a wealth of information. I have emailed her, called her, instant messaged her over the years. She has always, always been helpful, and shared her knowledge of weaving, and of running a business.
I have often thought about that. Here is a woman who does what I do, has done it longer, and better. She openly and willingly helps me to do what she is doing, knowing full well that I will be, and I am at times, her competition. When you google woven rag rugs, we come up together almost every time. We have come to be good friends, though we have never met in person. If she gives me advice, I know I can trust it. We have shared materials and leads on textiles, and once even a customer. She has proven to me the inherent goodness of people in this world, and she has moved me to pass it on. People often email me, call me, stop by, wanting to know how to do this or that, or ask me what loom to buy, or how to fix the one they have. One lady came to the studio on several occasions to learn how to put her new (old) loom together. And every time that I offer up what I know, and help when I can, it is because it was given to me so generously, that I can do nothing other than to give it away again.
Chris and I have become confidantes in our weaving enterprises. We encourage and respect each other for our unique contributions to the craft. I trust her, and she trusts me. It doesn't get any better than that for two people who are making a living from the same endeavor.
So thanks, Chris, for being my mentor, and my friend.
May all our rag rugs be tight and even and beautiful!
Find Chris at
She makes awesome rugs.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

dead of winter

While looking around the studio today, thinking about writing something for my blog, I came across my favorite small knitting project; there are several of these little scarves hanging in different places. And I realized that other than the birds outside my window, who are busily eating the ton of food I put out there, winter is pretty dull around here. It is just a constant vigil to keep everything warm, thawed out, shoveled out, and working in this awful cold. My son in law is a radio host for an Albany station, and he called it "stupid cold". I guess that about says it all.
Anyway......I will gladly send anyone this pattern, if you like it. It is an old pattern, the grandmother of a friend of a friend......that kind of thing. I can make one in an evening, and it is very cool. It just covers your neck nicely, and loops through itself. Takes only 2 oz of worsted, and is done on 8 needles. I use 3 double pointed needles. You just have to use really soft yarn, because it is wrapped closely, and if it itches, it would probably lose its charm. I sell a lot of them, so I guess they appeal to those who don't want a long scarf hanging. Which would be me......
Anyhow, here we are....January getting closer to its end....February pun intended. I am getting organized for 2009, and it feels good. Inventory on the computer, at last, and days in front of me that look promising for stocking the shelves. Thinking about shows, and debating whether to do some, or few, or none at all. Assessing how to spend advertising money, and how much. Promoting my web site, and tweaking it to please myself.
And once again, revisiting my priorities, and my goals. It would be so easy to get sucked into mass producing and making money. And every time that carrot is dangled in front of me, I cringe. And I have flash backs of all those years as a nurse, and all those years in a correctional setting, and my dream to finally leave it behind me, and "create" an environment of joy and serenity and having a place where my own somewhat unconventional creative muse could thrive.
And I am here. So I look at the numbers, and if the bills are getting paid, I push aside all the notions of success that are bandied about. This is my success, and it has to have a definition all its own. If I weave beautiful things out of textile scrap, and if people buy it, and love it, and make it possible for me to pay the taxes and the heat, and keep weaving in this wonderful old house, with sun (not today) streaming through wavy glass, then that is success to me.
If my grandchildren come, and love this old house, and are happy to play here for hours, and fill the rooms with their laughter; if they are comfortable with the thump of the beater while "Mimi" weaves, and ask to come again. Yes, that is success.
If my daughters, three of them, chide me for making such messes, but come help me clean it periodically, and rave to their friends about their mother being incredibly "talented", if a little bizarre.......ha! yes, then that is success.
And if my husband keeps me around and calls me his best friend, even though I am driven to this crazy as a loom life style, yup......that is success, as well.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Here is helper and apprentice. Does she look like she is having fun????? Because amazingly, I think she is. This girl loves to work! And she wants to learn it all.
At first I struggled with this concept.....having someone else do some of the work. Not doing EVERYTHING myself. But then I discovered something. If I teach her to weave and put warp on, and generally do what I do, then I suddenly have more time to do what I love. And as my friend, Chris, said.........this challenges me. To teach her to do this right, to be better at it myself.
I don't have to give her a work ethic though, she already has that. And it is refreshing.
She also helps me with the not so fun chores, like vacuuming......her back is younger than mine. And she is computer savvy about things that are Greek to me. So next week, we are going to do some inventory, and start putting stuff on the computer in a very organized way.
This is Kizzy, my feral kitten all grown up.......and he is a sweetheart. He seems to always want to test my rugs .........the minute I put the rug down on the floor to take a photo of it, he plops down on it, and gives me the "look". It is one of the few times he actually lies down where you can see him. He likes to sleep in nooks and crannies out of site. Miss Puss is always lying out in the open, but not Kizzy. Remnants, I guess, of the first 4 months of his life, when he lived out in the barn with his wild mother, and hiding was just the way it had to be. It takes him months to get used to anyone other than me. After 4 months, he finally decided to come out and jump up on my husband's lap, and now Bill just calls to him, and he comes out. I have warned Tammy.............he runs and hides, and plays very hard to get, he will take his time before deciding she is OK.
Today, we went to Albany, to see Jo graduate from the police academy. Jo is my youngest daughter's best friend, and my "adopted" daughter. Out of 64 graduates, she got the award for the highest academic average. If our DNA matched, I could not be more proud, or love her more. She is a very special girl, who is living proof that you create yourself by the choices you make.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Ocean waves

This is the 7' x 12' rug that just came off the loom today. It is going to Florida. I wish I were going with it! It has a crisp and clean look, blues and seagreens and white. I love it! And that is such a good feeling, to take a rug off the loom, and love it. It is exactly the kind of custom order that I like, when the customer gives me the colors, tells me what they want it to look like, and then encourages me to make the rug I envision. Tammy, my apprentice, helped me with this one, since it is 7 ft wide. She did a great job, her edges are looking more consistent all the time.
Now we are digging into a 200 lb bale of upsholstery selvedge, to make more Adirondack Lodge rugs.
When I left the studio yesterday, I had a deep tissue massage. My first ever. It was marvelous, and if I were rich, I would have one every day. I was totally relaxed for the rest of the evening, and slept better than I have slept in a long time. Until 6:45am, when the next door neighbor decided to snow blow his driveway. Unbelievable. Times like this, I really miss living in the country. I waited about 15 minutes, and got up. No sense in staying in bed. I wasn't going back to sleep.
By the time I got downstairs, I looked out, and he was snow blowing OUR driveway, AND our walk. Totally ruining any thought I had of being angry with him all day. What a guy.

Monday, January 5, 2009

These are my new Mimi's vintage rag placemats. They are fun to weave, and wow, are they colorful. I love them. I don't do placemats for days in a row, they are just too tedious. I guess it is the stopping and starting that gets to me. But I am always pleased to see the final product. They are so sturdy, and if I do say so myself, well done. I have taken to weaving a couple of placemats a day, so I can restock my shelves, and I find that doing them a few at a time, I don't mind them so much.
It reminds me of sewing blue jean strips together. That is another essential, and also tedious, job. So I do it in half hour bursts. It doesn't seem like much, but the jean strips add up, and it doesn't seem as overwhelming as sitting down to sew for 8 hours.
Yesterday, I went to get my hair cut, at JC Penney's. I took my 84 year old mother, who lives with us , to do some shopping. She was looking around for some blouses, and I took a pair of blue jeans in to the dressing room to try them on. When I came out, she was gone. I looked around and didn't see her. It occurred to me that maybe she walked back to the salon, to sit down, since she gets tired easily. But when I got back there, she wasn't there. So I checked the ladies' room, which is right across from the salon. Not there, either. I started back across the store, going from one side to the other, checking down each hallway. I still couldn't find her.
I walked all the way back to the salon, and then all the way to the other side of the store, getting a little concerned about where she could be.
Then I saw her, near the dressing room. When I got to her, she was shaking, and near tears. She said she had been there the whole time. Not sure how I missed her, but the damage was done. She was beside herself, and just wanted to go home.
On the way home, she was angry, and kept saying that she couldn't do that anymore.

Later that evening, as I was getting ready to to go upstairs to bed, she came into the living room. She looked like she had something to say. I waited, and eventually she told me that she was sorry about what had happened. I said that I was very sorry that I didn't stay right with her from the beginning, that it would never happen again. She expressed concern that something was wrong with her, something that made her get so upset when she felt herself alone. She cried a little, and I assured her that she was perfectly normal. I don't know how I will feel when I am her age, if I am so lucky.
Then she said what was really on her mind.
"I'm afraid that if I am too much trouble, you will put me in a nursing home."
Oh, my.
I hugged her, and reminded her what my father asked me right before he died. He looked at my mother across the table, and then to me, and said, " What about her? Will she be alright?"
And I said, "Yes, she will be alright. I promise."

Thursday, January 1, 2009

This is some of the warp I have been using lately. It is 50/50 cotton poly, a little heavier than 8/4, put up in 1 lb rolls. I mix it with some solid colors, and it makes a really vibrant warp. I have been using it for gumball rugs, and for the Mimi's vintage rag rugs. I better like it, because I have 500 yards of it on the Reed Ideal. And just so no one thinks I always know what I am doing, that warp of 500 yards has its problems. When it was all on the warp beam, it was quite evident that one section on the far right, was "a little light" shall we say......I figured I miscounted, and there was only 400 yds on that section. So not being faint of heart, I decided we could tie on the 36 threads, and continue winding on the 100 yards that was missing.......and we did, and it seemed to work smashingly......until we started weaving rugs....and found that after every single rug, we had to cut the warp, and retie, just to keep the tension tight on that section. It was actually a very valuable lesson, as most lessons are. And once we get past the knots that will signal that we have woven off that last 100, it should be good.
I am also selling this warp on my web site. It comes in the variegated colors shown above, and also in off white, and white. I have yet to measure it, but I think it has about 1200 yards.
I know it sounds crazy, but despite the cold and all the inconveniences that come with it, I like January. It is like a blank slate, a new start, another chance to get it right, or to at least improve on what you do. For me, it is a time of reassessing what I do, how I do it, and looking for new ideas about all of it. I get a little crazy about throwing things out, organizing my stash of fabric and threads, regrouping and getting a new vision.
This year, I have resolved to streamline the business part of Crazy as a Loom Weaving Studio, trying to simplify it so it is easier to deal with, and so it doesn't make me quite as "crazy". It is no secret that I don't like any part of it......but it comes with the territory. If I am going to weave rugs, and sell them, I have to keep track of them. And I have to know what I spend, and what everything costs. There is inventory, accounting, web site maintenance, promoting the web site, packing, shipping, advertising, paying bills, and more. Who knew? It is a bummer, but it is what it is. I have Quick Books on my computer, but even with the book, Quick Books for Dummies, I still don't have a clue. So that is my goal for this figure it out. I wish I had a Quick Books guru, but I don't.
Another project this year is my Secret Garden. I got the fence put up to shield it from the road......and the labyrinth is built. I planted a couple of high bush cranberry bushes, and in the spring, I will plant perennials inside the fence. The field behind the labyrinth needs to be turned over so I can plant wildflowers. Last year, I mowed a path through that meadow, into the trees in the back, and the kids loved it. Even though it is only an acre and a half, it has some big trees, some crabapple trees, pear trees, and lots of great rocks. I love rocks.
But what is most important to me this year, is having a better schedule. I am intent of having days off to spend with my grandchildren. Gabby wants to come for an "ova night", and with Ava, we will have a girls' night at the studio.
I love January.
Welcome to my world.

Because every thread counts

Because every thread counts