My Krokbragd Adventure

Until this past week my adventure in krokbragd was in full swing. There are times you have to walk away from a structure and come back to it to have a better understanding of it. I follow the krokbragd hashtag on Instagram and have been Angie Parker‘s biggest fan for a number of years so I seem to always be thinking about how to do different things with 3 picks of color.

I have done the traditional krokbragd rug many times over but this year something clicked – it probably had something to do with sitting in a house with your loom alone for days on end. My daughter was looking for a wall hanging to cover a small disaster on a living room wall so I put a longer warp on my loom and decided to play. This “playing” turned into a whole new way of thinking as far as loom set up is concerned. It began with moving two Ikea rolling carts to either side of my seat. When using 3 shuttles at a time you need a place to put them down at times. This worked for a little while but with the frequent changes of color I decided I needed more than the dozen or so bobbins I had. I ordered another 30 along with a spool rack. It’s a thing of beauty.

A couple of explanations for my weaving friends. This was a 6 yard warp of 8/2 polycotton 24 inches wide sett at 5 epi. I am using Harrisville Highland yarn for the most part but also have some cones of Collingwood rug yarn that is in the mix which gives me 21 ppi. Yes, this is a slow weave. I’m using my Macomber but honestly it is much easier to do rugs of any kind with a overhead beater. Your loom takes a beating when you make rugs. I have a barn frame loom that is much more adept at this type of weaving as well as a large, handmade Swedish type loom I am currently restoring. Next time.

I did a couple of rudimentary drawings but I never really plan on paper anything I do with krokbragd – I can waste A LOT of time with paper and pencils (I don’t use software of any kind but that’s another story). The drawings I did were a start but the number of picks I needed to get the effect I wanted was different than the plan.

The selvedges on this particular piece look like a wreck – I will have to sew in all of the ends where there are color changes – and there are a lot of color changes. I tried weaving them in but the build up of yarn on the edges was unacceptable to me. I am a master of boring, mundane tasks so this will not be a problem for me and I will be much happier in the end.

The use of 3 shuttles was initially a problem for me when I began weaving krobragd. I now keep them in front of me on the cloth. As I throw them I keep them in order – 1, 2 and 3. Once I understood how the colors worked with the treadles it became a simple task to change color and design right at the loom and keep everything in order.

The texture and hand of the finished cloth is something I just love. I am a wool person and this structure feeds into everything I love about weaving. It’s interesting and creative only limited by what yarn you have on hand.

Winter Wonderland

We have been having a wintery winter this year.  You know, the kind with lots of snow, cold and wind.  I try to remember to bring my phone with me when I do the chores in the morning because it has been so incredibly beautiful.  I will also take little walks to favorite spots if the snow isn’t too deep to go without snowshoes.

The sky is often interesting but the snow has been with us every day except one in the past 10 days.  Even if the sun is shining it’s snowing.   My daughter tells me Rowe has its own climate which may not be far from the truth.  This would be a problem if I didn’t love winter so much.

I can sit in the warmth of my kitchen with the woodstove going and watch the birds or life going on all around me.  It’s a time for handwork for me as well.  Things slow down without the gardening and general outside maintenance, pleasurable or not.

This year has been so difficult for so many and I feel blessed that I have been able to do so much in my own yard and home.  For me the pandemic forced me to narrow my focus – both in photography and life.  My bubble is small, painfully so, but those that are most important to me are in it.  There are so many pleasures that we have had to give up,  like going out to eat.  It was a weekly event.  I haven’t been to a restaurant, or gotten take out in almost a year.  It’s forced me to cook outside my comfort zone.

What has really happened is I’ve also discovered that I pay closer attention to what’s happening in my little world and I take more photographs of the same things.  I try to have a newer view or perspective.  Sometimes I am just given something like this.

This is affectionately referred to as a bathrobe photograph.  It’s fleeting, happens early in the morning and you can’t ignore it.  If I got dressed to take the shot it would be gone.  The fact the it’s 12 degrees out has no bearing.  I’ve done a lot of bathrobe photography this past year because my world is so much smaller but I am happy my world is really so large.

Get Outdoors

I woke up this morning to the realization that I have done nothing – nothing in the past two weeks.  Sitting in my house, in the company of dogs most of the time, with my days defined by taking them out, bringing them in, feeding them.  The goats and chickens also have their own time schedule but I combine them all.  I return to the house and am obsessed by the news – the radio mostly to hear someone talk.  I have meetings online for work but have been essentially immobilized by – anxiety.  I’m not afraid but anxious, more that fear of the unknown.  I work for the town Board of Health so I have been busy in a team that is working diligently to keep our residents informed, safe and calm.  Our demographic skews to the aging side, more retirees than not and we have had many volunteers step up to help those that are sheltering in place.  I can’t express my gratitude for living in a community where we know everyone’s name and care for every single one of them.  It may be in the background for so many of them but every  resident has been touched in those meetings.

It has been looking like spring but March never really turns out quite the way you think it will.  We had 8 inches of snow on an otherwise bare landscape at the beginning of the week.  This morning is warm and bright and the animals are ready to spend their days in the sunshine.  The ground is still too frozen to fence in the hens and I really do fear for their safety with every predator in the world coming out into the sunshine as well, and hungry.

I took a walk around the back forty and stopped at the bench to look at the beaver pond.  We have a family of ducks that we get glimpses of early in the morning.  I haven’t seen them up close but am assuming they are Mergansers as they were here last year as well (but I still dream of Wood ducks taking up residence).  I saw a woodcock do his little dance this week and I know that spring is arriving just by the sounds of the birds.  It changes.  You hear birds you didn’t know you missed until you hear them again.  It just sounds like spring and probably will more so shortly when the peepers and frogs emerge and we will be privy to the overwhelming sounds of their love calls.

Immobilization can no longer be tolerated when your seeds arrive in the mail and you can now see bare ground.  My garden has diminished in the past few years because there really wasn’t a need to have one – but I am a planner.  I think things will get better here in a month or two – slowly but I’m also concerned for next fall and winter so I will grow and put more by.  I will also have my salads and fresh through out the summer and enough garlic to last me the year (there’s never enough garlic).  My asparagus will come up as it always does and the rhubarb will be ready by the youngest daughter’s birthday for the obligatory birthday pie.  I may have to eat it myself in a virtual birthday party (but is that really bad?).

Get outside for a walk, or sit in the sun and soak up some vitamin D.  Listen to the birds, poke around at the things coming up in your gardens or the woods.  Breathe in the air, look at the blue sky.  It’s the little things that will keep us all going – the little gifts are right there, you just have to stop worrying long enough to notice them.

Deconstruction

I finally decided that the piano needs to go bad enough to actually take it apart.  Beginning was no easy feat since the top of it had been the repository of a large collection of fiber waiting to be woven.  So many projects, so little time.

Once cleared off I took the screwdriver to the hinges on the top and realized that I didn’t need to unscrew anything – everything was so loose it just pulled apart.  The top was removed in three sections.  These beautiful pieces of wood I will find some way to repurpose.

All of the felts, leather, even wood have turned to dust in this piano.  I didn’t realize how far gone the instrument was until it was opened up.  There really was no restoration that could have happened here.  It would have been a complete rebuild.

The harp is one of the most beautiful things about this piano.  Hand painted in gold, reds and greens it shows the artistry of the time in which it was built.  Once the strings were off you could actually see why it’s called the harp – it looks like one.  The question remains, how many strong men is it going to take to remove it, it’s cast iron.

I’ve also decided to save the keyboard.  It’s ebony and ivory which is illegal to sell no matter how old it is.  I started to think about all of the hands that have pressed these keys and it began to take on a magic of its own so it stays for the time being with ideas floating around on how to repurpose it with the wood that’s been salvaged and other odd bits and pieces.

There is interest in the beautifully carved legs so the only piece to get rid of will be the case.

I thought that getting rid of this instrument would be a painful experience – in some ways it is – but in taking it apart and realizing what bad condition it really was in made the job easier.  I also learned a lot about the actual mechanics and how long it takes to unscrew hundreds of screws.

Once it is out of the room there are things that need to be mended, painted, reworked.  It has been in the same place since the late 70’s I think.  Once that’s done, a rug will be put in place to make way for another loom that has been waiting patiently in the shed for its moment.  That’s a story for another day.

 

Döstädning


It must be the sun becoming warmer (or shining for a change) that has had me doing some cleaning.  It could be the fact that the cobwebs have taken over the house and clearing them out always involves moving everything in a room.  Let’s call it spring  cleaning, that sounds more hopeful when it’s still mid winter.

The truth is that things have been weighing on me of late – big things, huge things.  When my father died he left a collection of some of the biggest machines any ordinary man could own.  A couple of them I always saw as hobbies but there was a point where it crossed over into obsession.  The time has come for us to dismantle it.  There is a huge building that houses 2 large stationary steam engines and all that goes with it including a steam turbine generator and a sawmill run by diesel and steam.  Equipment so large that a rigger will have to be hired to get it out and moved.

It’s fairly easy to ignore that building with everything in it.  Walking into it is a time capsule of sorts but it weighs on you.  We are not getting any younger and the idea of leaving that to my kids is not appealing.

Every year about this time we make lists of the things that need to be done, sorted in order of importance.  This list begins by realizing that your kitchen is so cold and could be fixed in an hour or two with very little effort.  You just have to wait until Spring to do it.  This is the list that extends through the year consisting of all the maintenance and repairs that every homeowner has.

There is another list and that concerns the cleaning out of the property.  It’s the death cleaning or döstädning as the Swedish call it.  This has taken some time to embrace, probably because it’s my childhood home – there are memories I’m not ready to let go of and it causes me to hang on to things that no one would understand.  In talking about it Bill very astutely said “These were your father’s dreams not ours”.  That one comment changed my perspective on a lot of things.  I’ve gotten to the point in life where my list of long term dreams is beginning to be whittled away.  The sawmill is an example.  Ten years ago we thought we would use it.  There are always people who want lumber cut and it could also be useful to us in the repair of our buildings.  Last year we realized we were probably never going to use it and said it out loud.  We found it a home with someone who will use it and take care of it and be part of his dream.

The steam equipment is another story.

The out buildings are the bigger problem but there are things in the house that present similar challenges.  There’s the piano.  A huge, rosewood Chickering square grand – built about 1870.  It needs a full restoration.  No one plays, no one ever played it (well my mother hacked out a couple of tunes and my uncle would play something wildly out of tune when he visited – all vivid childhood memories).  It is large, heavy and no one wants it.  I’ve contacted museums, previous owners, piano restorers, craigslist, social media offering to give it away if  someone will move  it.  Nothing.  That leaves taking it apart and getting it out of here.  I’ve been saying I was going to do it for two years but haven’t, probably hoping something magical will happen.  It’s got to go, now it’s come down to what pieces I will keep. (Yes, more junk in storage – baby steps).

I realize that I’m entering into old age (although I will always be 27 years old in my head) and in the paring down of dreams comes the need to get rid of  stuff so no one else has to do it.  Döstädning, death cleaning, not a sad thing at all but really done with an eye to the future.

 

New Year

To some observers (including my family I’m sure), this may look like a jumbled mess of unrelated items that could easily be boxed up and brought to the transfer station.  In looking at the photo I can see where you might come to that conclusion but every single thing has someone or some memory attached to it.  It’s not a shrine – it’s a catalyst to stories of my life for the past 60+ years.  Almost every item evokes a pleasant memory for me. The purple bear I made while sitting with my husband’s grandfather in the hospital during his last illness, not a sad time at all, but my hands always need to be busy.  The velvet it’s made of came from a fellow bear maker and mentor in England.  There are glass marbles and weights made for me. Vintage sewing objects from sewing relatives – there’s often a lot to learn by opening a woman’s sewing box. A family clock with a child’s plastic dog on it, an old motorcycle license plate, bone buttons.

The objects I hold most dear are the images.  Some of them I must confess are from people I will never know, the small collection in a box made of photographs are vintage prints of children with dogs, not always easy to find but endearing.

Then there are two larger images.  The one on the mantle was one acquired at the memorial service of a dear friend.  There were boxes and boxes of his images that his wife thought would be better off in his friends homes.  It’s a posterized image of a cemetery – kind of ridiculous in a way and says everything anyone could ever say to me about its maker.

The newest addition I hung a little over a week ago.  It is stunning to me in its perfection – the print to the framing to the signature. Paul has now been gone almost 5 years.  This package was brought to my office by his widow and her words were “You’re either going to love me or hate me for this.”  I confess there were some mixed emotions in unwrapping it – strong emotions.  A little like reopening a wound, but I understood the intent behind the gift and after looking at it for quite some time I placed it with all my other memories.

I think the story attached to this won’t necessarily be about the maker, it will be about the giver.  We met at photography school 40 years ago and the only thing that kept us in contact with each other at all was Paul until we began working together about two years ago.  Now I see her almost daily and value her friendship in so many ways . . . so many.

Life is weird.  I think it just get weirder as you get older.  Maybe you have to pay attention but as I age so many things seem to have come full circle.  People you have let go come back in various ways and for me it has all been good.

In thinking about New Year’s resolutions I thought the best I could do was to make more of an effort here.  There are so many positives in an otherwise negative world that I need to bring them to light – for me.  If you find any value in it follow along,  I’ll try to keep it interesting.

Loom Move – The Rebuild

 

The holidays are over and the cold snap has broken so I’m no longer hauling wood and loading a stove every hour or so and fretting about farm animals suffering in below zero temperatures.  There are difficulties getting anything done in a timely manner this time of year, not the least of which is the lame internet access available where I live.  Getting media uploaded for publication can take days – yes, days. Consequently this particular post will be without video, bummer.

A few weeks ago began the loom move I wrote about in A Warped Sense of Fun.  There must be something about holiday weekends that attracts us to seemingly impossible tasks, New Year’s  seemed to work for those of us committed to follow through.

Let’s begin by saying it was cold.  Bone chilling, icy, snow on the ground, windy, cold.  Dressed for the weather we arrived at Peggy’s barn to initially figure out how to get the engine hoist where it needed to go.  It was heavy, on wheels and there was nothing but a snow/ice-covered path to get there.

The legs came off and on a sled it went. The beginning of a day of figuring out how to do things with what we had.

A lot of planning and discussion went on with this group.  How to move the base, where to place the head, how to pick it up.  Slow and steady was the call of the day, much different from the last session where everything seemed so rushed.

Planning – tools and parts in place.

Wondering if a plan will actually work.

For as much trouble as we had getting the head off and moved initially things seemed to go more smoothly moving it around in the shop and putting it back where it belonged.  Although about this time I was thinking my father and grandfather would be thinking of much easier ways to do this stuff (or laughing at our ineptitude).  Knowledge and experience, it’s what we’ve lost and none of us are the wiser until we work with things whose time has long passed.

Up and put in place.

Slow and steady.

As this was hanging in midair I couldn’t help but admire the paint Lenny had so painstakingly applied during its restoration.  It was a true labor of love.

Trying to get things put together.

Once the head was on the beater was put in place.

Finally it looked like a power loom again (something I wasn’t sure I’d ever see).

These are the faces of people who have accomplished something.  I love being involved in this sort of thing.  It makes you think until your brain hurts.   Everything you do has risks.  Everyone was thrilled (especially Peggy) that the big parts were all moved and put back into place without anyone getting hurt – the potential was certainly there.

We went in for some coffee and soup once the work was done for the day, a time to rehash what had just happened.  Richard commented on what a satisfying afternoon it had been.  It was a considerably different atmosphere on this workday.  Evenly paced, well thought out.  We did have our token youngster with us, we needed a strong back.  Andy is an old soul though, he seems to be channeling the mechanics of way back.  He gets it and loves it.   He is in this to see it run, not just to get it moved.  Good work had been done.  The loom has a way to go before it’s running but we no longer need a hoist to do the work.

I lost my grandfather decades ago, I was 20 at the time.  There are pieces of him everywhere still in the house I live in.  My father never got rid of anything – he had a desk drawer set up exactly as his father had, with his father’s things – a shrine of sorts.  Family members kept the stories alive.  The woolen mills were there lives.  I am a kinesthetic learner.  Watching Peggy weave, learning to build chain, winding bobbins, fixing broken threads, just listening to the loom run always seems to bring up more questions.  This is a visceral way to learn but it has given me the sights and sounds and smells of something that is part of who I am and where I come from.  Figuring out the mechanics is something we have all done, back generations and it feels comfortable and comforting to recognize that this sort of thing is genetic.  It’s also fun to work with people whose brains work the same way as mine.

 

2017 in Review

Every year, upon reflection, I realize what a charmed life I lead.  I live in a beautiful place, have wonderful family and friends, a roof over my head, hot and cold running water, good food on the table and the company of a charming menagerie of animals.  Life has been busy and the blog has suffered because of it, at least in the amount of time that has been dedicated to writing.  Something I should work on.  As you all know I am a visual person.  I try to take a photograph a day and my review consists of my favorites for the year.  All for different reasons.

January

 

February

March

 

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

December

Thanks so much for being a part of all of this and a happy, blessed New Year to all!

 

 

 

 

 

A Warped Sense of Fun

Weavers are a crazy lot, well maybe not all weavers.  My circle of weaving/fiber friends tend to lean towards crazy and I’m thinking that is probably the attraction for me.  The mechanics – the equipment – is really the draw.  I love the structure of it all including the cloth which makes me wonder sometimes why we are not more sane.

Now add to this mix a bunch of enthusiastic boys (mid to late 20’s) and an incredibly heavy, cast iron power-loom and you have a recipe for a real anxiety producing experience.

This is Peggy’s barn frame loom.  She’s a beauty and the first one I ever used.

I have to start with this because it took on a whole new purpose this past Saturday.  There are three Crompton & Knowles W3 power looms in Peggy’s weave room right now and there was a much smaller one in a very small room on an upper floor.  She decided to move it into her weaving room so it could be used.  It’s a beauty.  48 inches wide, having a complete restoration done by Lenny, the loom mechanic.  To my knowledge it hasn’t been run since the restoration, but I digress.

I was called about the move a couple of weeks ago and wasn’t able to attend the first phase.  Last week I got another call and also volunteered husband Bill (the mechanic) and my son-in-law (the young back).

Before we left the house Bill loaded up a chain fall, pipes, bars and other heavy equipment moving tools.  He met Richard in the room with the loom – the other member of the boomer generation with some knowledge of how to do these things.  They formed a plan (meanwhile the boys dove in).

I was tasked with taking apart the barn frame loom on the floor directly above the loom we were moving – the boys decided that the loom would make the perfect mount for the chain fall to pick up the head of the power-loom below (at 600 lbs. mind you) and proceeded to cut a hole in the barn floor.  I cannot begin to express the amount of anxiety I had about this.  We love our looms and I was beginning to think we were about to sacrifice one for the sake of the other.

The loom was moved over the hole, angle iron was placed on the top and the chain was lowered and attached to the head of the power-loom ready to lift it off so the based could be moved out from under it.

There was a slight problem because of the yelling that needed to be done on the parts of both sets of people – on different floors – on when to stop and start, up or down with the chain.  I worried for naught, the loom frame didn’t even groan.

A 2×4 was placed through the heavy end of the head and the chain attach but moving it proved to be quite the balancing act.  Ratchet straps were deployed and the moving continued.

The engine hoist was brought in and the transfer from the chain fall was made.

With the help of young backs the head was lifted off of the base.  We got to a point where it could stop and all had a lunch in the barn.

Where the geezers conferred some more.  I’ve found that the older the guy the more planning they do.  I think these guys were thinking much farther ahead on this game – like about putting it back together or getting it down the hill into the basement.

With all hands on deck the base was moved from under the head.

Then the head was moved out onto a second trailer.

What a beautiful piece of machinery she is.

Once the base pieces were moved into the weave room the head was ready to follow.  (Yes, that’s a Maypole braider in the background and I just wanted to throw it into the back of our truck but thought Peggy might notice it was missing).

It was getting late in the day and the objective at this point was to get everything inside.  People were exhausted.  The base was assembled enough to stand on its own and the head was put down beside it.  Assembly will happen another day (or days most likely).

I never realized what happens with an age gap like we had in this little project.  The boys had this energy, enthusiasm, let’s get this job done kind of attitude.  Those of us in a different generation approached it with caution, planning, fear of injury.  It’s kind of sad in a way, how much we lose as we get older but on the other hand we have gained so much in experience.  I dare say not a single one of those younger guys gave a thought to injury when all I was thinking about was where I can dial 911.

In writing this it suddenly dawned on me how many of these my father and grandfather moved out of the weave room at Charlton Woolens after the flood in ’55.  My dad was 24 at the time, they must have had help but honestly the weave room must have had 50 looms of much larger size in it.  They moved them to the next town over and rebuilt what they could out of what they salvaged.  Now the burning question is how did they do it?  There’s no one to ask.

I know they had family and like minded friends and I assume what happened this past weekend was similar in fashion to what happened then.  People came together to work towards a larger goal.  That’s the beauty of the crazy weaver community.  We are surrounded by people who love our crazy and are willing to be a part of it.

 

 

 

Grand Opening

It’s been a whirlwind kind of week in preparing the Browning Bench Tool Factory for its Grand Opening this coming Saturday, the 15th.  The historical society was given the use of a building that was moved and restored in 1976.  It was originally a factory building used in the making of small hand tools such as hand planes.

The idea of building another building for the display of sleighs, wagons and large agricultural artifacts had been discussed during the latter part of last year but the cost of doing so was just out of reach.  The Bench Tool had been used in the past for exhibits of local crafts on Old Home Day but has basically sat idle otherwise.  It’s a barn essentially with no insulation but tight to the weather.  It has a good roof and windows.  We figured this would be the perfect annex for our agricultural display.

The sleighs, wagon, and large agricultural articles have been moved in, the smaller stuff has been making its way over.  This past week with work bees we’ve sorted things to different floors and by industry, season or animal.  There are displays about sugaring and skiing, tools for ice cutting and wood cutting.  Dairy, haying and harvesting grains are included along with bee equipment and chicken brooders.

The third floor is a temporary exhibit on textiles and the manufacture.  Shirley (the loom) is set up and being dressed this week, I will be weaving there most Saturdays through the season.  There will be displays of other spinning and weaving equipment as well as some of the hand-woven artifacts from the museum.

One of the most important things for me has been the photographs.  The Historical Society has a treasure trove of amazing photos and I have scanned a good many of them in the past 10 months or so.  I’ve printed and mounted a great number of them to display along with the artifacts to put things in context.  So while the displays come together I think the photographs  will be the icing on the cake.  To see the town as it was 130 years ago is an amazing thing – open fields, amazing views, industry.  It’s difficult sometimes to wrap your head around it.

The trustees have come together and done an amazing job.  They all really care about the history of the town and sharing it with those that are interested.  If you are in the area on any Saturday through Fall from 10 A.M. to 2 P.M. stop by and see what we have in our newly expanded museum, there’s something for everyone.  Also consider becoming a member or lending your support as we continue to uncover treasures to share with everyone.