Thursday, June 04, 2020

Just 1 Vote

It’s just 1 vote.

 I am just one person. I don’t stand out in a crowd. I don’t have the platform afforded those who are rich, famous, or connected to those networks that amplify their voices and platforms. All I have is a vote. Just 1 vote.

 I am an elected politician’s greatest desire. I vote. I always vote. I haven’t missed an election—no matter how small—since I was eligible to cast my first vote, a long time ago. However, it’s still just 1 vote.

 I do not approve of a system of “justice” that unfairly targets large segments of society because they are not white, middle-aged, middle-class, cisgender, or heterosexual. That’s not justice—that is oppression. So, to all politicians running for elected office: If you accept the endorsements or campaign contributions from organizations associated with law enforcement, you will not receive my vote.

 You may not care. After all, it’s just 1 vote. But realize this: I always vote. I will vote for your opponent who did not accept endorsements or campaign contributions from law enforcement. Now you don’t need just 1 vote, you need 2—1 to replace the vote you didn’t get from me and 1 to cancel out my vote. Major elections have been decided by less.

 It’s just 1 vote, but 1 vote can make a difference.

Thursday, January 02, 2020

Metaphorically Kicked in the Head. Again.

     Hooray, the holidays are over! I actually love the holidays, but after two weeks of non-stop parties and fun (with all the appropriate eating, drinking, and staying up very late), I feel like a need a vacation from my "vacation." The studio is officially closed for another week, but I'm starting to get everything in my moderately well-run household back on track, and doing some design work for warps in 2020.
     My latest obsession is with 17th and 18th century German linen-weaving. This started nearly a year ago, when I stumbled across pdfs of old German weaving books on (If you aren't already a subscriber, it's $25/year and well worth the money.) I've been interested in historical textiles and weaving drafts for many years, and already had a few American books including

  • The Weavers Draft Book and Clothier's Assistant by John Hargrove (1792)
  • The Domestic Manufacturer's Assistant and Family Directory in the Arts of Weaving and Dyeing by J. and R. Bronson (1810)
  • The Weaver's Assistant, Explaining in a Familiar Manner, the First Principles of the Art of Weaving by Philo Blakeman (1818)

but then I started to look at these earlier books and manuscripts and was entranced. Here were fabric designs for looms that had far more than four or eight shafts. I kept digging around, and now have in my library

  • A Book of Patterns for Hand-Weaving: Designs from the John Landes Drawings in the Pennsylvania Museum by Mary Meigs Atwater (n.d.)
  • The Speck Book: An 18th Century Weaving Manuscript by Johann Ludwig Speck (1723)
  • Nutzliches Weber-Bild Buch by Johann Michael Frickinger (1740)
  • Neues Weberbild-und Musterbuch by Johann Michael Kirschbaum (1771)
  • The Draught Book by Jeremiah Fielding (1775)
  • A German Weaver's Pattern Book by Christian Morath (1784)

and I'm continuing to add to my collection as I run across them. The majority of these are either written or printed in German fraktur, so I can't read them, but I can read most weaving notation, or so I thought.
     I started with the "simple" drafts: point twills known as *hin und weider* ("out and back") that were all tromp as writ. These drafts, often simply a tie-up diagram with a zig-zag line next to it to indicate a point twill, gave textile production shops a real advantage in "custom" cloth production: a loom could be dressed with dozens (or hundreds) of yards of warp in a single threading, then the required cloth woven off as it was needed, after the client/customer "ordered" from a book of pictures of the tie-ups (which look like the designs).
     It wasn't until New Year's Eve that I had time to sit down and read a 1986 article by Patricia Hilts on the development of block patterns that all those weird little threading drafts started to make sense, and I realized just how incredibly sophisticated 18th century German weaving technology was. Included in the article were some of the block drafts I had been puzzling over, along with Hilts' modern redactions done on a TRS-80 computer. It was a "Rosetta Stone" moment: all those lines that look like chicken scratches are actually profile drafts. Very complex profile drafts. That require a lot more shafts than most American weavers have worked with. I thought back to something Rebecca Heil had written in the preface for The Speck Book: "At least one researcher had speculated that damask was the intended structure. Miss Nancy A. Reath, Assistant Curator of Textiles at the Pennsylvania Museum (now the Philadelphia Museum of Art) in the 1930s, was quoted as having 'come to the conclusion that the coverlet weaving was derived from linen damask weaving which, in its turn, was practiced in Germany.' " Damask is a type of satin, which takes 5 shafts. That means one of these drafts, with what appears as 5 shafts in modern notation, is actually a profile draft requiring 25 shafts. This was confirmed by a quote from Frickinger's Nutzliches Weber-Bild Buch that Hilts included in her article:
To work with 35 and 40 shafts will certainly render greater advantage even though this is the highest class of shaft-loom work. Under this classification you will find such that will require thought and will need great effort to weave, but you should not think that they have been set out only to look at or to vex people. They are meant to be woven and are serviceable.... Some people think hat I drive the shaft loom weaving [footwork] too high, but as in any art, I say, let him who will, drive it higher." (Italics mine.)
     In other words, "Go big or go home." I rather like that. My first attempt at GBGH is a gebrochene arbeit draft from A German Weaver's Pattern Book. It looks like a series of squiggles, but is actually a tricky little point twill that produces a beautiful design of circles within circles separated by tiny tables and fine lines of flags. At 250+ ends per repeat when drawn as a 15-shaft damask, the design is meant for very fine threads, but the resulting cloth is probably stunning.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

2019, Don't Leave In A Huff...

...just leave.
     It's the last day of 2019, and all I can say is, "Don't let the door hit you on the way out." All in all, it hasn't been an absolutely banner year. I spent far too much time away from the studio, misplaced my artistic drive for months, and have generally felt like I've been slogging through knee-deep mud.
     I know some of it is simply the aftermath of dealing with death, and the knowledge that I can't physically do everything I once, foolishly, could. But a lot of it is, I think, from people behaving badly, particularly online. I've watched group after group turn into nasty nests full of vipers, hissing and lashing out at each other over some perceived slight or another. 2019 may be remembered as "The Year of Butthurt": everything from people getting their knickers in a knot over a bit of history that doesn't jive with their pre-conceived notions, to people discussing what might be received as gifts during the holidays being an insult to those who don't celebrate a particular holiday. You name the topic, somebody is pissed off about it and isn't going to hesitate to announce their affront loudly and often.
     I have gotten things accomplished. I have flax growing in three beds. The front yard is showing signs of being full of daffodils and grape hyacinth in the spring. The never-ending, everlasting warp is off the loom and Bertie is resting quietly until January 8, when I officially go "back to work." And I have a list of weaving resolutions for 2020 that I'm going to accomplish.
     For 2020, I'm using an old teaching strategy: developing "S.M.A.R.T. Goals." S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym meaning Specific, Measurable, Attainable/Achievable, Relevant, and Time-oriented. Once upon a time, we called these "well-written teaching objectives," and I can still write these puppies in my sleep. Today's S.M.A.R.T. goals look a little different, as they don't begin with the words "The learner will...", but they're written specifically for tasks I really need to do in 2020.
  • Finish adjusting Bertie for optimal weaving by January 15, 2020.
  • Design two "holiday" warps by January 31, 2020.
  • Reassemble the HD loom by February 29, 2020.
  • Weave off the polychrome crackle warp on MiniMac by March 30, 2020.
  • Finish large off-loom piece by April 30, 2020
  • Sew one garment out of handwoven cloth by May 30, 2020.
  • Weave a wool warp by June 30 2020.
  • Weave a flax warp by August 31, 2020.
  • Demonstrate mastery of the principles of gebrochene arbeit ("broken work") by designing three warps--including one suitable for eight shafts--by September 30, 2020.
  • Complete one unit of OHS program by December 31, 2020.
So there are my goals for things in the studio. Meanwhile, I got a grain mill attachment for my stand mixer, so I'm going to spend time in 2020 baking more unusual breads: I want to see if I can "reverse-engineer" the schwartze bread (black bread) my mother-in-law bought in the Fairfax District of Los Angeles. I also have another recipe for bialys, something unavailable in the Bay Area. I also have a fair amount of sewing, a bit of costuming, and some gardening to do in 2020. I may even squeeze in a bit of travel. I'm trying to spend less time online and more time doing things in Real Life.
     Adios, 2019. Hello, 2020!

Sunday, December 01, 2019

The Mad Dash

    It's a cold, wet, miserable Sunday morning, and I'd love nothing more than to curl up with the Sunday newspapers, a pot of coffee, and a pencil for the Sunday crossword puzzle. No. Not today. Not this month. And definitely not this year. The mad dash to the holidays has begun.
    I have a love/hate relationship with the time period between Thanksgiving (my favorite holiday) and Christmas. There's always too much to do, and not enough time to do it, and I'm usually afraid I'll disappoint or offend someone, so there's a certain amount of generalized angst. This year is particularly bad as, through the horrid quirks of two different calendars (Gregorian and Jewish), Thanksgiving was on November 28, Chanukkah starts the evening of December 22, and Christmas is December 25. That leaves me with three weeks to

  • clean the house from top to bottom;
  • decorate it inside and out;
  • do all the food shopping for a round of parties and fancy dinners;
  • make a mountain of cookies and confections; and
  • buy and wrap presents

without losing my mind, my patience, my sense of humor, or my coffee cup. Add in a 20-yard warp that should be woven off by the end of the year, and I'm a teensy bit overwhelmed. It's why I've dropped a few things off the list over the years. For example, I don't send out Christmas cards. I also don't host fancy sit-down dinners, opting instead for buffet-style cocktail parties and open houses.
    I also make lists. Lots of lists. And timelines. I use a couple different programs to track what I need to do when, and to prepare shopping lists. For example, I know we'll probably have house guests next weekend, so the house should be clean by Friday afternoon. I also need to go "big shopping" on Wednesday, so I have to skip that day in the number of days (2) I need to get the house ready. I also need to lay out the general meal plans for December and make shopping lists--that takes several hours. I also need to mix more cookie doughs and get them into the freezer for baking later in the month. Today's To Do list includes:

  • Finish December menus and shopping lists (I started on this yesterday).
  • Bake a pie for dessert.
  • Continue sewing the lights on the Christmas tree hat. 
  • Finish knitting the toe on a "travel/social knitting" (aka "drunk knitting") sock.
  • Mix up cookie doughs for freezer.
This list keeps growing, so I'd better get to it.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Challenging Pre-Conceived Notions

The Sampler.
How dare I??
    I'm of the opinion that when it comes to pre-conceived notions, there are two kinds of people: those that rigidly cling to the
notion; and those who say, "Gee, I never looked at it that way. That's pretty interesting." History is full of examples of pre-conceived notions, and what happens when they're challenged: those clinging like limpets to the notion are willing to fight to the death to preserve it; the people who are willing to re-examine it are perturbed by the limpets; and the messengers that the pre-conceived notion might not be the whole story...well, we all know what happens to messengers. I'm currently one of those messengers, all because of a little-known German manuscript and a lot of white 8/2 cotton on Bertie.
    Bertie is back together, and I need to do something with the remaining 484 ends x 25 yards of white 8/2 cotton on the warp beam. I also needed to check that Bertie was running properly, with no more "missed" picks because the shafts weren't behaving as they should. I settled on a simple 16-shaft point twill, added a couple extra shafts for some plainweave selvedges, and pulled 15 drafts from with some basic parameters:

  • Point twill
  • 16 shafts
  • No floats longer than 7 ends/picks
Five of Morath's 16-shaft designs.
All point twill, all tromp as writ.
After eliminating the boring ones and the duplicates, I was left with 15 drafts: 13 from A German Weaver's Pattern Book: 1784 - 1810, and 2 from 16-Harness Patterns: The Fanciest Twills of All by Irene K. Wood. (Both are available as pdfs from The pattern book was of particular interest: I have a longtime interest in historic cloth and cloth-making. I have a decent collection of books on the topic, and I use a lot of historic weave structures in my weaving. Of particular interest right now are hin und weider ("back and forth") patterns woven by primarily German and German-American weavers: using up to 24 shafts threaded for straight or point twill, and treadling "tromp as writ" (i.e., the threading), these weavers could create a number of different designs in the same warp simply by changing the tie-up. Since I don't have to climb under the loom to change the tie-up, it was a pretty easy task to create a sampler of all 15 patterns, each separated by a narrow band of plainweave. I have a lot of dark blue 8/2 cotton on hand, and it's dark enough that I can see the patterns (important if I'm going to pick out floats that might be too long for towels). I got the draft loaded into Bertie's brand and wove off the entire sampler in less than an hour.

    Overall, I'm pretty pleased with the results, so I decided to "share" photos of my sampler with members of an 18th century costuming group, letting them know that these are woven from 18th century drafts. That was a mistake. This is a group of people who, while they know some of the most picayune details of how an 18th century petticoat is constructed, don't know jack about how the cloth they're using is made. Add in that their knowledge base is limited to examples in museums (which have only the most precious, most spectacular examples of textiles and fashions), and the few extant swatch books, and someone coming along with something out of the ordinary is rather like proclaiming that the earth is round when everybody knows it's actually flat. Example:

Online Pompus Pundit (OPP): Those designs are for coverlets.
Me: Uh, they're weaving drafts. They can produce a lot of different fabrics, depending on the yarn. A lot of these are for fine linens.
OPP: No, those are only for coverlets. Show me proof that they're used for something else.
Me: They're from a German master weaver's pattern book. The manuscript is dated 1784. 
OPP: That doesn't prove anything. Your research is garbage and you're a terrible person for even suggesting that these might be HA (historically accurate) fabrics.
Me: ...

Another five of Morath's 16-shaft designs.
At that point, how do you explain to someone that these are drafts and tie-ups from the manuscript Christian Morath, a master weaver from "Offeringen" (Ofteringen?) compiled and sold to his employee, Joseph Murilman of "Endingen" (Eggingen?) for 5 coins in 1784? That Morath, who was probably a really good master weaver--and the only weaver in the village--knew this "arcane knowledge" of weaving well enough to write it all down for his employee? And that Morath probably knew, as most weavers do, that fabric is fabric is fabric, and it's the yarns that determine what the end use is as much as the design does? In the end, you don't. Ultimately, it's like trying to teach a pig to sing: a waste of time and irritates the pig.
    Ironically, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has an extensive textile collection, including some 18th century German linens. They were purchased by the museum in 1909, and one of them, probably a fragment from a tablecloth, depicts the story of Joshua and Caleb, two of Moses' "spies" who investigated Hebron in Canaan. It's an elaborate weaving, with the names of people and places woven in. Oddly enough, the names appear correctly, then mirrored, across the fragment. Only one threading "mirrors": hin und weider, or point twill. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

WWJD: What Would Jim (Ahrens) Do?

    Once upon a time, about 80 years ago, a guy named Jim Ahrens took up weaving as a hobby. Ahrens was someone who liked to work with his hands--he was a cabinet maker--and had those wonderfully wild engineering skills that allow some people to not only look at a problem and ask, "Why is this happening?" but then sit down and come up with an elegant solution. With a background in mechanical engineering and machine design, it's not surprising that weaving appealed to him: the process is a delightful blend of art and engineering, and you get to play with some pretty interesting machinery and tools.
    I don't know the entire history--Jim Ahrens passed on nearly 20 years ago--but I suspect that he, like many weavers, was mostly self-taught. That has some disadvantages--the learning curve can be steep--but one of the big advantages is that you aren't hamstrung by traditions. You can look at a problem, or a piece of cloth, and engineer/reverse-engineer a solution. For example, it's a pain to climb under a loom to change the tie-up, and the bigger the loom, and the more complex the draft, the more work it is to change the tie-up. Ahrens looked at the design of looms and thought, why not move the tie-up system to the side of the loom, so you can simply change the tie-up while standing (or sitting) next to the loom. Ahrens Looms are known for their patented side tie-up systems.
    Ahrens also studied how looms and weavers interacted in earlier times. Master weavers turned out miles of complex cloths, but many of their secrets disappeared as handweaving was mechanized during the Industrial Revolution. By the start of World War Two, handweaving looms were limited to four or eight shafts and, in the United States, usually either counterbalance or jack looms. (Bexel was making their "Cranbrook" countermarche rug loom, but they were very rare.) As the story goes, Ahren's wife Dorothy brought home a beautiful piece of linen she wanted replicate, and once they determined that it took 36 shafts to recreate the pattern, Ahrens added 4 additional shafts for the selvedges, then built his first mechanical dobby handweaving loom. That first dobby led to others; and a partnership with Jon Violette to form AVL Looms in the 1970s; and on down to Bertie.The "A" in AVL, and in A-Series is for Ahrens.
The Ahrens Dobby, at the start of restoration.
(Picture from Peggy Osterkamp's Weaving
Blog, August 16, 2019)
    Jim Ahrens' big 40-shaft dobby is owned by weaver/ teacher/author Peggy Osterkamp, and has just been restored to working order by Peggy and her apprentice (and talented weaver in her own right) Vera Totos. The loom is a beast: the 40 shafts controlled by the dobby head are fronted by an additional 4 counterbalanced shafts that weave the ground cloth, making it possibly the only mechanical (no electricity required) 44-shaft loom in the world. However, the familial relationship between that old loom and Bertie are quite evident: Bertie doesn't have 4 counterbalance shafts full of flat steel heddles, and the Ahrens Dobby doesn't have a computerized dobby head, but both work on the same general principles.
    So, if the two looms are similar, how does that affect setting up the heddles on Bertie? I looked at the photographs Peggy and Vera posted, and created a spreadsheet of shaft and heddle usage on the last dozen projects, including every one woven on Bertie. What I found:
  • I like to weave designs on a plainweave background
  • I weave a lot of tied-weaves, from Huck Lace to Summer-and-Winter to Batemans
That means I tend to put a lot of ends on a few shafts, while the rest are spread out to make the design. Those shafts should probably be in front, rather like the ground shafts on the Ahrens Dobby. I like my selvedges on separate shafts from the rest of the warp, but I don't want the shed geometry to be considerably different from the shed geometry of the ground, so the selvedge shafts should also be at the front. That leaves the rest of the shafts--30 to 36--free for design purposes.

For a lot more information on Jim Ahrens and his looms, check out Peggy Osterkamp's Weaving Blog and the Ahrens Looms website.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

OMG, She's "Crafting!"

    It's one of "those" days. You know--the ones where the world seems a bit off-kilter from the moment your feet hit the floor. I knew it when I peeked at my Facebook news feed and found that the very first item was an argument in an historical sewing group over...the costumes worn by a bunch of dancers. In a 1966 Andy Williams Christmas special. Shot on a soundstage in Hollywood. No, I don't make this stuff up. Needless to say, my eyes rolled nearly to the back of my head. Really? I mean, REALLY??
Kimberly Hammond's
Christmas Tree Hat
    For a change, I decided to roll with the world being a wee bit tipsy, just for fun. This nonsense reminded me that I saw a terrific novelty hat in the shape of a Christmas tree on someone recently, so I perused Ravelry's pattern database for something similar to that hat. My only requirements: the pattern is free; it's crochet; and it has popcorn stitches to simulate the tree branch tips. It only took a few minutes to find what I was looking for: Kimberly Hammond's "Christmas Tree Hat" pattern. I'll need to make a few changes, as I want it to be a bit wider and squatter, but the pattern--which Ms. Hammond has generously made available to the world--will give me a starting point. While I was on Ravelry, I also pulled some patterns for a Santa's elf hat, complete with ears. If I'm going to run around this holiday season with a Christmas tree on my head, then the long-suffering Spousal Unit can be one of Santa's elves.
My work table is being taken
over by Christmas.
    I normally do not keep holiday "crafting" supplies on hand--everything I have in red, green, and white is very small, cotton, and earmarked for weaving holiday towels for "the shop." A trip to Michael's was definitely in order. It's fairly late in the season to start on holiday "crafts" (Michael's starts putting the holiday stuff out just after July 4th), so the shelves were somewhat bare, but I managed to find green, red, and white acrylic yarns (on sale), tiny plastic Christmas ornaments to trim my "tree" (on sale), and since there's no success without excess, a long string of battery-operated multi-colored LED lights (on sale).
    So I'm probably committing terribly inappropriate pre-Thanksgiving holiday crafting. It somehow seems appropriate.

No glitter was used in the writing of this post.