Autumn Respite

It seems the internet and airwaves are awash with bad/crazy/scary news. I care about it all and am paying attention and cannot wait until next Tuesday, when I will be pressing my nose up against the window at my local polling place, eager to vote.

And yet . . . one needs a break. One needs a reminder that our world isn’t only bad/crazy/scary. You, my blog friends, offer many and excellent reminders of that. And I want to contribute my own, from my lovely part of the world.

Autumn has been awesome this year. It’s always my favorite time of year, here in upstate New York, in the Adirondack Mountains, near Lake Champlain. But this year the color of the trees, in addition to being bright, has persisted longer than usual or so it seems to me. A few trees fade and more have taken their place.

I can’t give you the freshening breeze that makes the leaves dance and sparkle. I can’t give you the tang of woodsmoke or the crunch of dry leaves beneath your feet. I can’t give you the snap of an Autumn Crisp apple or the sound of the snow geese as they make their raucous way south.

But I can give you the sights of autumn. Many, many sights of autumn. You can click on them as you choose . . . I just know I feel better having been out there, in our pretty world.

 

 

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An Autumn Pet Peeve

I love a field of autumn corn. The stalks all golden brown, lined up, and waiting to be harvested. It’ll be cut down, chopped, and used for silage to feed cattle during the long winter. (Silage goes in a silo and that’s what most farmers call it. I grew up on a farm very near the Quebec border and never heard the word silage until a few years ago. We used the word “ensilage” exclusively–the French influence, I guess.)

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I even love a field of mown corn. It looks restful, harvest finished, and its sere, muted shades make the surrounding foliage seem all the more radiant.

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But this? This make me peevish. Who does this?

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Who harvests an entire field and leaves one last corn stalk standing? So untidy . . .

(And can you see the blue jay photo bombing the picture?!)

Happy Weaving and Spinning Week!

I’ve recently learned from Chris, at Acton Creative, that this week is Weaving and Spinning Week!

How did I not know that?! Heaven knows, after the news of the last couple of weeks, I need something to celebrate . . .

And it seems the perfect excuse to show you what I’ve been working on since the last update.

A long time ago (May, in fact), I showed you this project of two scarves in pink and white while they were still on the loom. It’s a good example of how the weft color changes the overall look.

Let me explain a little—in weaving, the warp is made up of the long threads that are attached to the loom and are vertical when I sit facing the loom. The weft threads are the ones that come out of the shuttle as I weave and are horizontal.

In this project, one scarf is done in just two colors—rosewood and white—for both warp and weft.

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The other has those same two colors in the warp but the weft is lighter pink.

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Pretty cool, huh?

I’ve sort of been in placemat mode, too. It turns out that buyers like placemats and I like making them. I get the satisfaction of achieving a “finish” pretty quickly since each individual mat is fairly small and quick to weave up, even though the entire project may be on the loom for a while.

I did this pattern in off-white—it uses two weights of thread in both warp and weft, which creates the nice texture.

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I liked the results so much that I went ahead and did it again. The second time, I used two shades of blue. The effect is tweedy and interesting.

I keep thinking of other color combinations I could try. Maybe dark brown with the lighter-weight thread in a bright yellow-green? Or bright orange?

And, of course, I’ve made more towels. I wove the striped ones I’ve already shown you and six of these.

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And this boring-looking bunch of threads will turn into towels, too. I hope they’ll be more interesting soon!

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Some of my projects have been repeats of ones you’ve seen before. I know weavers who never, ever make the same pattern twice because they want to move on to something new. SO much to weave, so little time!

As much as I like new, I do have some favorites and I really like doing them over. (I’m the same way with books—I love re-reading my favorites, as visiting old friends, and will cycle them through my reading every few years.)

So, my weaving re-dos are more of these placemats (buyers like placemats!) I hemmed them this time, instead of leaving fringe. I like the look of the fringe better but it means the mats can’t go into the washer and they are white, after all.

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And I making more of these Christmas towels. This shot is a good demonstration, again, of how the weft color can change everything. You can see the unwoven warp on top, then, going around the front, a towel where I’m using white as weft. Underneath the loom, you can see what that same warp looks like when I used red as the weft.

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Here’s another view of the red weft and the obligatory photo of the weaver’s apprentice.

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And that’s it for this update, with many ideas percolating in my mind! Thanks for celebrating this special week with me!

The House at Pooh Corner as Tonic

IMG_2343On the drive and then the commuter rail, I checked my phone for updates. She testified he tried to rape her. He, he who wants to be a justice on the US Supreme Court, shouted he never did.

In the hotel, the next day, I watched angry women confront a senator, him in an elevator, with nowhere to hide. They cried and told him about their own experiences with sexual assault, and he averted his eyes. But he used his power to do right.

Arrogance, angst, animus, and more have been all the news.

High drama, all too common in the US these days.

What to do? How to escape, for a bit, the bad news about embarrassing elected officials and women mistreated?

The Hundred Acre Wood.

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The House at Pooh Corner.

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Winnie the Pooh.

Yes, sweet, steadfast, good-hearted Pooh was the antidote we chose.

The Museum of Fine Arts, in Boston, offered this respite. Their current show, “Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic,” includes dozens of drawings and letters and early editions of the books by A. A. Milne and illustrated by E. H. Shepard.

Escaping into this world was a balm.

It was lovely to see the inspirations for our Poohish heroes—the real-life Christopher Robin, the toys he so loved.

The exhibit is perfect for children, with a few interactive spots, but nothing too tarted up or technological to take away from the simple joys of reading and being Pooh.

And it was fun to see how Pooh and pals have evolved and become a part of popular culture, not just in the UK and US but all over the world. It seems we all understand the bear and the tiger, the piglet and the cranky donkey (my personal favorite).

The best part for me was the drawings. The way Shepard experimented and played and created expression and movement with just a few pen lines.

Eventually we had to say goodbye to Pooh and Christopher Robin and the others and head back to Trump and Kavanaugh and those others in the ickier, messier world we live in.

“But, of course, it isn’t really Good-bye because the Forest will always be there . . . and anyone who is Friendly with Bears can find it.”

Thank goodness for Pooh.

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This Is for You. I Made It Myself.

“This is for you. I made it myself.”

You make something for a friend or for a family member.

You think of them, with every stitch and brush stroke and creative impulse.

You consider their likes and dislikes, their favorite colors, their lifestyle. You pour yourself into the making.

You want it to be perfect, to express your love, your affection, the extent to which you value their presence in your life.

You value their presence but . . . do they value your present?

A couple of times lately, I have come face to face with what I consider a bit of a betrayal. I’ve found, at garage sales, beautiful handmade gifts being sold for a pittance.

It’s given me pause and made me wonder about the extent to which handmade gifts can ever be truly appreciated by people who are not, themselves, hand makers.

One of the items I came across is this beautiful hand crocheted afghan, in wild and wonderful shades of green.

 

It was hanging on a clothesline at a yard sale and I idly asked if it was for sale. Yes, it was. How much? Two dollars. Two dollars?! I’ll take it.

I asked, Did you make it? The answer was, No, my best friend made it for me.

Um.

Okay.

Your best friend spent hours making you this gift and you are selling it to a stranger for two dollars.

I knew not what to say. But what I thought was “pearls before swine.” What I thought was your friend deserves a better friend than you. And I became the crocheting friend’s friend, in absentia, and will give her afghan the good home it deserves.

And then I came across this fabulous hand knit sweater.

This sweater has it all. It is big and burly and well made. It has cool colors and a terrific retro design. It has a proud tag, added by the maker, “From the knitting needles of Eleanor E. Heffner.”

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Oh, Eleanor. I am so sorry that your sweater ended up at a garage sale, being carelessly sold for three dollars. For whom did you knit it? I hope that first recipient cherished it, even though the sweater came to this sad end.

But, of course, it isn’t the end for the sweater. I’ll offer it for sale and the perfect owner will present themselves, someone who understands what Eleanor was communicating when she stitched this great old cardigan.

I know that, in theory, a gift is supposed to be given freely, with no strings attached. That the joy is supposedly in the giving and, once given, we can’t determine how the gift will be used and maybe we should try not to care.

But I can’t help but be sad for these makers whose work was underappreciated, for any one of us who makes a gift for someone who just doesn’t get it.

I think it may happen more than I knew. I mentioned the topic to my group of sewing ladies, we who meet weekly to stitch, and knit, and crochet, and quilt. To make things that often become gifts. And, I should note, these women are excellent makers, who take great care in their work—no sloppy, amateurish rags coming from this group!

And I heard their horror stories of quilts that took days, weeks, months to make and that were immediately re-purposed as dog beds. Of handmade gifts that were never acknowledged or were given away. Of faint praise and insincere thanks, or no thanks at all.

Is there an abyss, a huge disconnect between those who make and those who don’t? Am I trying to communicate in a language foreign to others, those who receive a handwoven kitchen towel and think, “Oh . . . a towel. Big deal.”

What do think? Are you happy with the simple act of giving, in a selfless, loving way, the things that you labor over? Or do you consider the recipient and, perhaps, reserve your handwrought work for those you know can appreciate it?

And how about those of you who aren’t makers? Are you thrilled or made uncomfortable by a handmade gift? Are those of us who craft expecting too much? Do you cringe or cheer when you hear the words, “This is for you. I made it myself”?