NaNoWriMo

It’s that time of year again, when I decide between participating in NaNoWriMo or maintaining my sanity.

For those who don’t know, November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo.  It is a fabulous organization which seeks to promote writing by any means possible.  That is, just write.  Don’t try to come up with the next great novel, don’t worry about spelling, don’t edit, leave characters flat, threads dangling and plots filled with holes if you have to, just write.

The goal of NaNo is to write 50,000 words in the month of November.  That breaks down to an average of 1,667 words per day.  But that is only how you “win” NaNo.  The other goal is just to get people writing, for all those who have ever had the slightest inkling that they might want to write a story but always have some reason why they don’t.

This urges you to cast off any inhibitions and ignore any rules you’ve ever heard for the sake of getting words on paper.  As a friend of mine says, you can edit crap, you can’t edit nothing, so get something on the page, even if it’s crap, because then at least you have something to work with.

From NaNo’s About page:

The rules state that, to be an official NaNoWriMo winner, you must…

  • Write a 50,000-word (or longer!) novel, between November 1 and November 30.
  • Start from scratch. None of your own previously written prose can be included in your NaNoWriMo draft (though outlines, character sketches, and research are all fine, as are citations from other people’s works).
  • Write a novel. We define a novel as a lengthy work of fiction. If you consider the book you’re writing a novel, we consider it a novel too!
  • Be the sole author of your novel. Apart from those citations mentioned two bullet-points up.
  • Write more than one word repeated 50,000 times.
  • Upload your novel for word-count validation to our site between November 25 and November 30.

So that’s it, that’s NaNoWriMo.  Write a novel, do it in a month.

I’ve participated in NaNo for several years.  It’s always a good excuse to really push myself, but I can never quite stick to the principle of write freely with wild abandon and care not how bad it is.  I edit as I go, something you’re urged not to do.  I just can’t help it.  It’s how I write.  As a result, I’ve never actually ‘won’.  I’ve gotten close two years, but never hit 50,000.

This year, with my already failing goal to do something creative every day (which as always, started out really strong but has faltered as my life has gotten busier and busier) I feel like this would be yet another year where I see my word count fall pitifully behind daily goals until November 30th rolls around and I’m 20,000 words shy (but if you’re smart, you’ll look at it as 30,000 words further than I was November 1st!).

 

Sigh.  I’m going to torture myself with this again, aren’t I?

Alright.  I’ll do NaNo again.

And as always, November 1st and I don’t know what I’m going to write yet.  I *knew* I should have written down that idea last night when I had it…

The Purge, part 1

So I started this weekend with my ‘great purge’.  I’m also just a touch drunk at present since I was so sore from cleaning, arranging, and moving heavy furniture this weekend that I went to the brewery and had *two* beers (yes, I’m a total lightweight) to ease the muscle soreness, so forgive any missing, misspelled, or just nonsense words in this post.

For the first time ever I remembered to take ‘before’ photos BEFORE doing anything *gasp/shock* so you’ll be able to see what I started with to get to where I ended up.  I started on the downstairs guest room and failed office which ultimately required me to do the hallway as well because stuff from the hall had to go into the guest room and stuff from the guest room ended up in the hall.  It’ll make sense when you see it.

This is a good time to mention a quirk of my house.  (oh, by the way, I was wrong on the square footage, it’s only 1,600, not 1,800.)  The house was built in 1932 but was remodeled by one of the previous owners.  During this remodel which seems to have been confined mainly to the kitchen area, the hall that used to lead to the kitchen now leads to a wall.  That’s right, I’ve got a hall to nowhere…

This hall has generally been the repository for all the ‘stuff’ in the house.  It was the stuff hall even when my parents had the house.  I always thought the hall would make an awesome mini-library, put bookshelves against one side and viola!

So when I started on the guest room I knew I’d have to do both because the unassembled bookshelves I bought 5 months ago were still in their boxes in the room and the bed I was moving into the room was part of the stuff in the hall.

Here are the beginning pictures.  It had a queen spring mattress and airbed in it, with a little side table, a desk with a computer that works but can’t connect to the wireless network in the house so is useless for everything my uncle needs it for, a white cabinet with a sh*t-ton of my uncle’s books, and a closet so stuffed with stuff that it literally started to fall out when I opened the doors.  I am somewhat embarrassed to show the ‘before’ pictures, but here they are:

View from the doorway

View of the desk. Mostly buried under stuff and the boxes with the bookshelves.

The closet, with stuff literally falling out.

Hall (to nowhere) with twin mattresses, captains bed frame, and various other stuff.

Saturday I started at 8:00 AM and worked pretty much straight through till 5:00 PM, then today I started again at 8 and worked till 3.  I was pretty sore all over, especially legs, back and abs, but the beer helped.  The cats did not help, no matter what they tell you.

Dexter taking a break from all the hard work he wasn’t doing.

Okay, so… final result?

Hall with new bookshelves. The white cabinet that had been in the room got moved to the hall, the brown cabinet that had been in the hall will get put in the barn to hold various barn-y stuff. I can now get to the door that accesses under the stairs!

Twin bed replaces the queen air mattress

Desk cleaned off (and some of my painted ceramics put on the wall above)

Other side of the desk

And now the part I’m most proud of: the closet!

The upper shelf holds my camping gear: tent, cot, sleeping bag, and a collapsible camp chair.  The lower shelf has my folded up feather bed/comforter.  But the closet floor is clean!  No boxes, no stuff, no junk, just open closet to *gasp* hang clothes!  Which, actually, these will go into *my* closet when I get that cleaned, but for now they’ll stay down here.

As an aside, did you know you can put furniture in a closet?  Really!  If you’re short on floor space but always seem to have room in the closet (if you get rid of all the other ‘stuff’ you store there) you can put bookshelves, dressers, even armoires in the closet!  Especially if you tend to hang shorter clothes like shirts or folded slacks, you have a lot of space underneath you can use.

Back to my redecorating, here is the other side of the closet: the kids play stuff.

Which brings me to the second topic in today’s entry: making a play area for kids when you don’t have any.

Sadly, at 35, I’ve still not managed any of my own.  This really is not how I thought my life was going to turn out, but there you have it.  But I have several friends who have younger kids, and it seems like it’s only natural to have an area in my house they can go have fun when “the adults are talking” because we all remember how boring that is as a kid, right?

It is *absurdly* simple to accommodate younger kids.  Go to the dollar store, buy a box of crayons and a coloring book.  Buy a couple of toys.  Maybe a stuffed animal.  Put them in a box for when kids come over!   (or, you know, take your stuffed animals and Halo figurines out of their boxes… >.>)

First, I assembled a short set of book shelves.  I had an old toy train set that I put in a bin, then took a few toy figures I’d had ‘collected’ over the years from various places (Halo, Lord of the Rings, etc) and put them in there, too.  Add in some stuffed animals, a board game, some dress-up clothes, and an old globe.  Last, I added a blanket and little pillow to snuggle up with and some kid-friendly art pieces, and came up with the above play alcove tucked in half of the closet.

Because all the stuff is inexpensive, there’s no real worry if they break something.  Give them lots of things to get into to explore and play with, lots of ‘surprises’ to enjoy, and don’t worry if anything breaks, that’s the idea.  Just be sure you don’t add anything  you *don’t* want broken!

So there’s my weekend.  A newly arranged guest bedroom and kid’s play area!  And I’m beat!

Oh, two more things:

Here’s the pile of stuff ready for the dump and cardboard recycling.  (I added a bit more to the pile after this picture was taken, but this is the bulk of it.)

And here is (most) of what will be going to Goodwill.  Two large boxes of things.  Even some of what I had originally slated to keep ended up being tossed into these boxes eventually as I re-thought it and realized that no matter how much ‘potential’ or how ‘cool’ some things were, I just was never going to do it or wear it or use it and it was going to go back into the ‘stuff’ collection.

It was interesting to think the whole time I was doing this I was imagining how I could turn this tiny room into a fully functional apartment!  Put a shower and toilet in the closet area, put a mini kitchenette where the desk is, raise the bed and put a desk beneath, or put in a wallbed/desk combo!

It was a good day, all in all! 🙂

To Each Generation, Trials

The woman behind the counter looked intimidating even before I approached the window.  She looked at me over the edge of her bifocals and waved me forward impatiently as the bracelets on her wrist jingled and the flowery blue pattern of her blouse tried to lull me from thinking of her as the first gate – guarded and barred – standing between myself and a marriage.

“May I help you?”

“Um… yes I-”

“Please speak up!”

“I’m here for a marriage license?”

The piece of paper was slapped on the counter and woman used the tip of her pen to point to various boxes, lines and statements.  “You fill this section out; your fiance has to fill this section.  Don’t leave any blanks.  You both have to sign here.  Read these instructions, check this box and both initial here to indicate you have read and understood them-”

“What if we don’t understand them?”  She gave me a look that said volumes: if I didn’t understand them, I had no business getting this piece of paper.  I swallowed hard and said, “Just wondering.”

She ignored the interruption and turned the page over.  “Here is where your two witnesses sign – they can be of any gender – here is for the person officiating, and here is for the notary public.  The notary must witness the signings.   Bring the completed form and a check made out to the City of Colville in the amount of two-hundred and fifty dollars.”  She thrust the paper toward me.  “Any questions?”

I shook my head and she looked around me.  “Next!”

Slinking back from the window, I put the paper in a folder and tucked it into my bag, leaving quickly.  I knew what assumptions the woman had made just by looking at me, and it bothered me.  It bothered me that she thought she knew who I was going to marry.  It bothered me that if she had really known, she’d have refused to give me the paper.  Even knowing the opposition to it being made legal, even knowing what to expect, it still bothered me.

I walked home, mind too filled with thinking to subject myself to the crowd and clamor of the bus.  I walked passed old married couples rocking on front porches and young married couples with children in tow and all I could think of was wanting to look just like them, wanting that pure, sweet love to be mine.

In my mind, I chastised myself saying I already had it.  I had that love; I just couldn’t show it like they did.  I wasn’t allowed to.  Most might just look the other way, but it was those few who wouldn’t just be angry, they’d get violent – those were the ones you always had to look out for.

It wasn’t enough that they had their wives, they had their 2.3 kids and house with white picket fence and 40-hr per week jobs and a car in the driveway.  It wasn’t enough that they had everything they wanted, they still had to keep it from me.  Through their speeches of “You can love whoever you want, but don’t make me agree with it.  Don’t let my kids see it!  They might grow up to do the same thing; you’re corrupting our youth with your unnatural ways!  You can’t call it marriage, it’s an abomination!” they tried to shame me, threaten me, prevent me from living my life just as they lived theirs.  I still didn’t understand how they could feel so threatened.

Was it only my imagination that I felt their eyes on me, judging me even now as I walked faster to get home?  My heart throbbed in my ears until I had shut the door, leaning back against it to shut out the invisible assailants.  And there he was, my David.  Everything in the world I wanted, everything that made my eyes light up and my life worth living.

He scooped me into his arms and kissed me and for that moment, the world was right and nothing else mattered.  But as always, moments pass, as did this one, and I took the folder out of my bag and took the paper out of the folder.

“Are you still sure about this?”

I nodded.

“I love you.”

And that made it enough.  We filled out the paper, checking all the boxes and filling in all the blanks.  Tomorrow it would be legal.  Tomorrow we’d go to the courthouse.

Nothing could ever have prepared me for being in the middle of that angry mob.  I had seen it on TV in other places, but nothing can really make you understand what it feels like to be in the middle it; like standing in the midst of a dry forest that hasn’t seen rain in years, and you can feel the torches closing in around you, a breath from setting you ablaze and nowhere to run.

I had worn a new dress, done up my hair, put on a little makeup and polish, and looking in that mirror, I felt beautiful.  It wasn’t to last.

The crowd was already there when we got out of the car, walking toward the courthouse doors.  There were two police officers by the doors, but it was clear they had no intention of breaking up the mob.  My eyes were fixed on those doors, though, and I gripped his hand as we started to walk.

There were signs telling us how much God hated us, how we’d burn in hell.  Signs saying we were abominations.  Women screaming insults tried to block our path but I just kept walking forward.  Someone spit on me, someone poured a drink over my head, someone hit me with an apple.  I kept walking.  Someone ripped the veil off my head, someone tried to hit me.  I knew the whole time he was getting it worse, sheltering me as much as he could.  I kept walking.

By the time we reached the doors, I looked more like a victim than a bride.  The crowd stayed just at the edge of the steps; seemingly they had been warned ahead they could abuse us as much as they wanted outside, but if we went inside they had to stop.  Looking back at the crowd, I couldn’t help the tears that formed as David urged me inside.

The police stayed at their positions, but I could see the contempt in their eyes as we passed.  It was hard knowing that if I had been marrying another woman, they wouldn’t have cared one way or the other, but because I was marrying a white man, I might as well have been the devil himself, and then remembering that only sixty short years ago, they were where I was.  I didn’t understand why they couldn’t support us now, why they had forgotten already how hard they struggled for their own equality, only to help in denying us ours.

I prayed that my children would be raised in a nation where it didn’t matter the color of your skin, it only mattered how much you loved one another.

Continue reading

Losing Weight

This is not what you think it’s going to be about.

This weekend, I read an article about San Fransisco considering a drop in the minimum square footage for apartment units to 220.  No, not a drop *of* 220 square feet.  A drop *to* 220 square feet.

Now, most of you here have no idea that I had my blossoming architecture career smashed under the housing market crash.  Alas, I had to move on, but my love of house design never left me.  Going nostalgic for a moment, I knew I was in the right line of work when after an 8 hour day at the office drawing house plans, I’d come home and play Sims.  Only I wouldn’t actually play the Sims, I just designed neighborhoods of houses.  Yep, I’d design houses at work, then come home and design them for fun.  Some people called me sick, but I just liked to think of myself in my perfect career.

Okay so obviously I’m not getting paid for it anymore, but I still love designing houses!  (and ooh look, I have AutoCAD on my computer now. mwahaha!)

One thing I love about small house designs (or apartment, or whatever.  Small *living* space designs) is it requires so much more creative use of space.  The article shows a very narrow apartment with a wall bed that converts to the dining area when not being slept in.

It also makes me think about my mom who, to this day, insists she loves Japanese design.  Because it’s so uncluttered.  (Mom, it’s uncluttered because they have *less stuff* not because they were just *that good* at design.)  But it is interesting how much even house designs can vary between cultures, and what’s considered normal.

I saw another house design where the bedroom was really just an enclosed bed with a sliding door.  There wasn’t any ‘floor’ area, just the bed (looked to be on a platform but not what you’d consider a typical western bed frame).

Got me really thinking about small house plans and reduced floor spaces.  There have been many books written about small houses, lots of people blogging about small houses, much building of small houses, and now tiny apartments are the latest place we’re cutting space and living smaller here in the US.

My house is 1,800 square feet, if memory serves.  That means if we’re talking about apartments being 220 sf, I could fit just over 8 apartments in my house.  Since my house is 4 bedroom, and if you assume parents and three children, my house could (and has) uncomfortably fit 5 people (the discomfort chiefly caused by there being but a single bathroom).  Compare that with the same square footage could comfortably fit 8 people, even if in a very tiny space.

It also made me realize there was no way I could ever fit all my ‘stuff’ into 220 square feet.  I probably couldn’t fit it into 440 square feet.  I might have a hard time squeezing down into 900 square feet – half the size of my house.

Maybe this shouldn’t bug me, but it does.  Terribly.  Welcome to America: our people are fat, our houses are fat, our closets are fat, our heads are empty, and our wallets are dry.

Yes, I have my crafts and fabric and paints and the like, but really, even with hobbies, I shouldn’t be incapable of living at half my square footage if people can live in 1/8th of it.

So part of the weekend was spent on thinking about the fact I need to do a major ‘stuff’ purge in my life, both for my sanity and for the general tidiness of my house, but part of the weekend was also spent on designing very small houses.

220 sq. ft. single bedroom floor plan by Eliza Murdock

440 sq. ft. two bedroom floor plan by Eliza Murdock

I remember several  years ago sitting down to design 1,000 sq. ft. houses and thinking how difficult it was.  I don’t deny these plans offer very little in the way of indoor space, but that will hopefully help get people outdoors more often.

Now, if I was a college student or recent grad and was looking to move into my own place, I’d have been delighted with either of these options (especially since I’d have turned the second bedroom into an office or craft room).  However, being well established in my house, I think I’d find it very hard to squeeze back into such a small floor plan.

But I am going to embark onto an epic purge and get rid of all the stuff I haven’t seen for years, clothes I haven’t worn for years, furniture whose only use is to hold stuff I don’t use… it’s time to lose weight! – haul it to Goodwill, maybe hold a big garage sale, or throw stuff on ebay and see what happens.  Maybe I can purge my life and grow my wallet a tad?

Also, if anyone wants a very small house designed for them… 😉

Garden Vegetable Muffins

I went hunting for a zucchini bread recipe once, only to find that they were mostly sweet breads, dessert kind of things with lots of sugar and autumn spices. I didn’t want that, I wanted a nice savory bread filled with vegetables and flavor.  Zucchini bread seemed to be such a perfect way to absolutely stuff vegetables into my bread, and I was quite disappointed that it was so offset by sugar.

After a fruitless search, I decided that if I wanted this bread, I was just gonna have to make it myself, so starting from what seemed to be a very basic recipe I found, I concocted the following.  (I am still tweaking this recipe here and there.  I’ve cut the sugar 3 times and could probably cut more.)

The veggies are almost entirely up for juggling.  I didn’t have red pepper or leeks this time so I made do with onion and tomato instead.  Basically, if you like it, toss it in and see if it works!  Also, I say ‘finely chopped’.  What I mean is, I stuck them in the food processor until it was mostly not lumpy.   I also used the grating tool on my food processor to grate the zucchini.  I really like taking shortcuts when I can get out of chopping and grating, but only if it offsets the effort to clean the machine afterward.  I’m a very conscientious lazy.

Also… I suppose you can add nuts if you really wanted.  If you’re *that* kind of person.  /long-suffering sigh/

Garden Vegetable Muffins

* 3 cups whole wheat flour
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1 teaspoon baking powder
* 1/4 cup flax seeds
* 2-3 teaspoons various herbs to taste. (I used fresh ground black pepper, basil and thyme)
* 3 eggs
* 3/4 cup olive oil
* 1 1/2 cups sugar (though I think the recipe could still easily use less)
* 2 cups grated zucchini, do not squeeze out the juice!
* 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
* 1 green onion, finely chopped
* 1″ chunk of leek, finely chopped
* 1/2 teaspoon finely grated jalapeno (more if you really like jalapeno)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
2. Stir flour, salt, baking powder, soda, herbs and flax seeds together in a bowl.
3. Beat eggs, oil, and sugar together in a large bowl. Add sifted ingredients to the creamed mixture, and beat well. Stir in zucchini and vegetables until well combined. Pour batter into prepared pans. (I did one bread pan and one muffin pan.)
4. Bake for 40 to 60 minutes, or until tester inserted in the center comes out clean. (Muffins bake for 20 to 25 minutes.) Cool in pan on rack for 20 minutes. Remove bread from pan, and completely cool.

Makes between 18 and 24 muffins, depending on how deep you fill the pan.  Could also do 12 muffins and one bread pan.  Absolutely fabulous warm with a little butter.

Be careful if you’re making these for ‘later’.  You might find they disappear rather… rapidly.  (I polished off 4 muffins barely out of the oven.)

 

Lessons from Jane Austen: On Being a Woman

So Dean Kutzler‘s suggestion was a biography, and even though I have one already it’s hardly an exhaustive one, is it?  So I’ve decided to write on an aspect of my life that in many ways is responsible for my involvement in crafts like spinning, weaving, and embroidery.

Now, this *may* come as a shock to some of you, so be sure you’re sitting down.  If you have not, in fact, noticed by now, I am a woman.  I know, I know… “Eliza!  How did this happen??” you cry.

Well, I’ll tell you.

It happened when my sister introduced me to something called Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen.

Ah yes, I can see the confusion on your faces. “Wait… does that mean you weren’t a woman before that?”

Yes.  I wasn’t.  I was a girl.  Well, actually, I was a tomboy, (which, in many ways I still am) but I was a girl.

“Ah, semantics.”

Yes and no.

One annoying thing about American culture is a lack of, what I’ll call “rights of passage” observances.  Oh, we have superficial ones, like 21st birthdays or sweet 16s but as a whole, there is no meaningful, cultural marker of the transition from childhood to adulthood, with the conveyance of both benefits and responsibilities.  It makes me sad.  But that’s not for this journal.

Growing up, I never wanted to be like the popular girls.  I didn’t *want* to be stuck-up and more worried about my clothes than my grades.  I still don’t wear make-up except for *exceptions* like friends’ weddings or the like.  I didn’t spend time doing my hair, or doing my friends’ hair, or them doing mine.  I had very different sorts of friends.

We spent time hanging out in the woods building forts, or throwing jelly beans around her cabin watching stupid funny movies.  I lived in the country, so a lot of my own free time was spent out in the woods behind our house, making tee-pees with tree branches and a tarp, and climbing trees and playing in the ditch (I used to make whole villages on the banks of the “river” (i.e. drainage ditch water) and weave exceptionally tiny baskets out of grass and fill them with puffs from the cattail heads like they were cotton.)

So I was a tomboy.  I never wanted to be girly, and since I equated all irritating “girly” things as what it meant to be a girl, I didn’t want to be.  That’s not to say I ever wanted to physically be a boy, I just didn’t want to be a girl.

So I was about… I’ll guess 24 or 25 the first time my sister brought this movie in called Pride and Prejudice.  I was absolutely enthralled with the movie, because in some ways, for the first time I had a standard by which to say “That!  That’s what it means to be a *woman*, that’s the kind of woman I want to be!”

Not like Eliza’s younger sisters, silly, ignorant, idle, vain… I wanted to be like Eliza! (well, probably at the time I was more like Jane, very quite and reserved) but Eliza really got my attention.  She didn’t have to put on airs, chase after men, or be terribly concerned about the condition of her petty coat.  She was strong, she had a quick and sharp wit, the goal of her life wasn’t the ‘getting of a husband’… I could go on for two pages about why Eliza Bennett became what I decided was the ideal woman.

Helped along, of course, by Mr. Darcy’s description of “a truly accomplished” Lady:

‘…A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing and the modern languages to deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half deserved.’

‘All this she must possess,’ added Darcy, ‘and to all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.’

So even by these standards, I do fail rather miserably.  I love music, but I have no real knowledge of it.  I can at least claim to have a greater range of musical tastes than ‘your average American’.  I can sing badly in the shower and loudly in the car, but not well.  I have a little skill at drawing, though I do *adore* dancing!  That is one area I really do have some talent in.  And by dancing I don’t mean busting it on a dance floor, I mean I have done Jewish Folk dance, Scottish Country dance, Irish step dance, belly dance, etc, and I love each one dearly.

The only language I know – modern or otherwise – is English.  I know a bare smattering of Spanish words, even less Hebrew, and the only Swedish or Finnish I know is what I sing along to with my music.  When I visited Holland I at least tried to sound things out and figure out what they meant.  (Falafel!  I know that one, that’s what I’ll have! *grin*)  My friend was delighted, actually, making good natured fun of me.   She said no one else had ever come to visit her and tried to read the street signs or dragged her to the grocery store to see what was different and what was the same.  And she made fun of how I held my fork 😛

I can’t claim any special ‘something’ in my air or speaking.  Rather I suppose I’m quite coarse at times, and this tends to be where my tomboyishness really shines through.

But I do so love reading.  I’m so glad you put this in, Mr. Darcy, it really is one of my few saving graces in your list.

So there we go, I really fall quite miserably short of Mr. Darcy’s accomplished woman in most areas, but that was 200 years ago, so surely I can update a little, right?  I can obviously add writing to the list, since Jane Austen was an author, and that’s something to aspire to as a woman!

This is where the arts and crafts come in.  It’s too late for me to try to learn Latin, I’m certainly not going to enroll in Miss Kitty’s School For Fine Ladies anytime soon, so I had to improvise a bit on that list of Darcy’s.

It’s not an easy task to remake a dedicated tomboy into a Lady.  Especially not when you really have little but yourself to guide the process.  And… it just struck me that a lot of my crafts would probably have fallen well below Miss Bennett and Mr. Darcy’s societal stations in life.  But I’m going to ignore that in favor of the 200 year time gap and just go with it.

So back to the SCA (my historic reenactment group), I went to an arts and crafts event and learned how to do blackwork embroidery.

Up to this point, I had never done any kind of needlework in my entire life.  I had barely ever threaded a needle!  But here I was, creating these gorgeous designs on a bit of fabric and thinking “Wow!  I did this!  Me!”  And that was the beginning of my absolute love of crafts.

I learned to embroider, and sew, and spin, and I learned basic inkle loom weaving, and I did repousse, and Norse wire weaving, and I sewed a vaguely Turkish garment, and I learned silk painting, and I make paper, and I learned to cook!  And I write, write, write!

And I’ve learned to draw and paint better than I ever thought I could.  I am old fashioned, I’m really not ashamed to admit it.  I like doing the things that I associate as being feminine, not girly – which I hate –  but feminine.   Because they make me feel like I could fit into the world of Eliza Bennett.  Because, in doing all this, I feel like a woman!
… anyone know a Mr. Darcy?

Spinning and Weaving, Pt II

Sorry for the delay, Sonja!   Here is the weaving at last!

I got my inkle loom at my reenactment event after taking a class using one.  I was very lucky to find one that was very affordable not long after in order to facilitate my continuing addiction to fiber.

What I love most about them is they create very functional pieces in a very short amount of time with very little work.  Being highly portable helps as well, I can be weaving while camping, in a car (that I’m not driving…), sitting on the couch watching TV, or even when I’m hanging at my computer.

Inkle looms – highly portable, usable at my computer!

Inkle loom

There are many different styles of inkle loom, but the basic idea is the same.  They produce long, narrow strips great for trim, draw strings, straps, even shoe laces or jewelry (think bracelet or choker necklace.)  The many pegs provide much greater option for the length of the piece, so depending on how you warp the loom you can end up with anywhere from about three to six feet or more.

Though the design naturally produces a pattern which repeats every other row, so depending on how you arrange your warp threads, you can get things such as checkerboard patterns, stripes (vertical or horizontal) dashes (like below) but the restriction is every other row will always repeat.

White and blue wool bracelet

More advanced techniques can be used to create very elaborate patterns; these involve pick-ups (think of the game pick-up sticks, they came from creating weaving patterns!) and brocade work.

I’ve given pick-up work a try.  It’s definitely tricky and requires a lot more thought on both the warping and weaving end of the work, but the finished product is very beautiful.

White hand spun bamboo and orange hand-spun goat

You can see on the left side the alterations in the pattern where I practiced doing various kinds of pick-up patterning between the white and orange.  It’s pretty rough, this was my first attempt at doing anything like it and I was mostly playing around with the possibilities, but this certainly shows off what can be done!

This piece comes in just over six feet long and was made using orange dyed goat hair and white undyed bamboo.  The bamboo is very soft, almost like silk, but can be a little tricky to work with.  It feels lovely, though, and creates a strong yarn.White hand spun bamboo and orange hand-spun goat

I haven’t yet decided what I’m going to use this piece for.  Might end up as the handle on a bag I keep meaning to sew up.

Here is another piece of trim I worked on, you can again see the repeating pattern of yellow/black/yellow/black with an edge of solid red:

Red, black and yellow hand-spun wool

And another piece I did using a mottled dyed green wool with color gradations from black to bits of white.  The result is a very lovely effect, I think!

Mottled green hand-spun wool

In fact, this piece ended up replacing the shoulder strap on my purse!

Purse shoulder strap

So not just pretty, but functional!

Burgundy and ivory wool/silk blend

This is the piece I quickly warped up and wove when Sonja asked me to show off my weaving.  It didn’t take very long, but I kept getting interrupted, so this entry got delayed until I could show it off as finished 🙂

And just like the first entry mentioned, it’s amazing how much you can feel connected to others throughout time and across geography when you get involved in these kinds of arts and crafts!

Also: more spinning, because I forgot to add this picture to the last journal.

Hand-spun goat hair (top) and hand-spun undyed silk (bottom)