I’ve been seeing people following this blog here on WordPress. Ariadne’s Thread and Arachne’s Web is no longer hosted on WordPress, due to both technical and justice reasons.
The blog is now here. It’s got an RSS feed, too. Please go read there, not here.
So. Moved the blog. Why?
Well, for one thing, WordPress has been getting harder to use, not easier. It’s been doing things like truncating posts and reformatting stuff randomly, certain things just stopped working in Firefox, all kinds of crap. Reporting bugs is difficult, annoying, and never seems to get anything done. Time for a new platform.
Also, though, I’ve come to really despise the company WordPress. There were various things, but the really big one was this: There was an attack blog that specifically targeted and outed trans women, endangering their homes, their livelihoods, and their lives. It was clearly a violation of the WordPress terms of service. WordPress, after months of complaints, finally took the blog down. The bigots complained. WordPress put the site back up, and it is still there.
WordPress is intentionally and knowingly hosting a blog that is harming trans women, some of the most vulnerable and endangered people in our society. The assault, rape and murder stats on trans women are terrifying. I’m close to a number of trans women, and my wife is one of them. I don’t want to provide any more content or traffic to a site that would do this to them.
So, it took a while, but now I’ve moved. All the posts are over there, not that there are many of them. The comments are being lost, since the new platform, Ghost, hasn’t yet implemented native comments, and I don’t think I can import them to Disqus (a purely temporary solution). Not that there have ever been many here.
At some point, the posts here will disappear, except for a link to the new location of the post.
Ghost doesn’t automatically post to other sites, so I’ll have to do that manually. I know many people only read this blog by clicking over from Twitter or Tumblr or whatever. But if you actually want to keep up with it, you might want to bookmark it, because I may not always remember. At some point, I’ll add an RSS feed option.
See you over there, I hope.
I’ve had multiple projects that I just had to call a stop to right where they were, recently. One was not a stop to the whole project, just to that bit. I’ve been carrying a spinning project with my tiny Jenkins Kuchulu in an Altoids tin.
I had meant to keep spinning until I had a good-sized turtle (turtle is what you call the cop on a Turkish spindle) and the spindle started to slow, but the cop got too big for the Altoids tin to close properly, so I took it off and started a new one. The turtle eventually got wound into a skein and washed, and is lovely, but is not so long a skein as I might have liked.
Next, it was the set of straps I mentioned in my last entry. I’d been having trouble with these from the beginning. I had a huge amount of trouble tensioning the warp evenly, which is absurd with a continuous warp, I had a hard time with the string heddles, everything. The weave-along I started them for was long over. They were making me crazy. I finally said Fuck It and cut them off the loom. I got about 16″ of each one, and they vary in width from 3/4″ to 1.5″. One will be a choker for my wife, and the other is tied to my laptop bag, because somebody else at the place I’m trying to get a job at had the same bag. I rather like them, even if they never did turn into what I wanted them to be.
And then I finally went back to the seascape cocoon shrug. Only it turned out that I had forgotten to release the tension, and several of the more delicate warp thread had snapped, some of them in the web. I spent half an hour or so trying to find ways to fix it, but the new threads of the same yarn kept snapping, too.
Finally, when I was nearly crying, my wife suggested I just call this one done, too.
This one was the hardest. I had plans for this. I wanted to make this into something wearable for my mom. I wanted this to be my first Saori clothing project. And I simply couldn’t.
The yarn was easy. I just stopped that skein right there. Fine. Doesn’t matter. There’s plenty more fiber, and I often work in short sections of one yarn.
The straps were harder. I had to give up on the project, but at least it wasn’t an important project. I still want to do straps for sandals at some point, but what the hell, I’ll do them when I get that inkle loom I want.
But this. This feels like a real failure.
I did it anyway. I cut it off and knotted the fringe and washed it and all. But it still feels like failure. And I simply don’t know what to do about that.
Oh well. It’s pretty.
It’s all a lesson in humility.
Too sick right now to start anything new, but next I owe a devotional weaving to Hermes. I think I’ll do that on the frame loom. I’ve been doing some reading on ancient Hellenic weaving, and some vase paintings show really very similar frame looms being used by young women for what is clearly fancy work.
I’ve decided that I’m going to start collecting my loom waste and using it to make offering-weavings to Athene when I have enough, as thanks for the gift of my skill. Also considering dedicated my shuttles to her. Hellenes used to dedicate loom weights to her, but of course I don’t have a warp-weighted loom.
I’ve got some other posts waiting to be published, but I still want to get off WordPress before posting too much more.
Literata (ok, that was over a year ago; I’ve been wandering through various people’s archives) talks about a witch’s landbase, meaning the local land in which an Earth-based witch or Wiccan bases her practice, her bit of Earth, from which she draws power, and which she serves.
And I’ve been thinking about it, and I realize I’ve never connected with the land here much. When I started practicing, I was still in high school, living in the house I’d been in since I was five. I knew that land there intimately. I never had to think about a connection with it. I had my bit of beach, my tree in my own yard, my favorite places in the swamp beyond the yard.
When I moved to Tallahassee for college (and then stayed there nine years), I never had much trouble connecting, either. I was still in Florida, even if I was significantly north and in the panhandle, much farther from salt water. (I’ve always connected best to salt water.) I understood sugar sand and sinkholes, live oaks and slash pines. A few blocks from campus and my first apartment, I found Old City Cemetary, which dates back to before the Civil War. It’s a entire (small) block, bounded only by streets. It’s no longer in use, either. Always peaceful. Plenty of trees, old ones. I found a cedar tree there that I loved, and that loved me back. It was a place of power for me. I found a grave with my own name on it — Rebecca Scott, beloved consort of Andrew, who died of yellow fever at the age of 27. (I was even there with a friend named Andrew on the day I found it. And they were from Maryland, which is where I was born. It was a bit much.)
There was the grave of Elizabeth Budd Graham, who local legend holds to be a witch. Her grave faces west instead of east (which every other grave around it does, although there are other graves facing west in other parts of the cemetery). The inscription reads:
AH! BROKEN IS THE GOLDEN BOWL: THE SPIRIT FLOWN FOR EVER! LET THE BELL TOLL – A SAINTLY SOUL FLOATS ON THE STYGIAN RIVER; COME, LET THE BURIAL RITE BE READ, THE FUNERAL SONG BE SUNG; AN ANTHEM FOR THE QUEENLIEST DEAD THAT EVER DIED SO YOUNG, A DIRGE FOR HER, THE DOUBLY DEAD, IN THAT SHE DIED SO YOUNG!
I love an old cemetery, from before modern embalming practices, from before we sealed the dead up in airtight steel caskets and put them in cement vaults. These are places where people return to the earth that gave them life. It’s special to me. It was a quiet place in the middle of the most urban and built-up part of Tallahassee, between the two big campuses and only a mile or two from the capitol building (which, for those that don’t know, is … ithyphallic, shall we say? An erect phallus, complete with testicles). Once, I got there and heard bagpipes. There was a piper walking the perimeter, practicing. Lots of little things happened to me there. I found a branch that became my wand. Other things I won’t mention.
I had a beach, eventually, although it was a longer drive from home to get there. Mashes Sands, it’s called. A long, shallowly sloping floor. I could walk out a quarter mile, and still have the warm water only up to my chest. Sometimes in summer, it had phosphorescent algae. It was magical, especially at night. (I always love beaches best at night.)
And then I moved to Seattle. It’s a far bigger city than I’ve ever lived in before. When I first got here, I had no car, the bus system baffled me (and it isn’t very good), and I got immediately lost whenever I got too far from my tiny apartment. The land and I made a few overtures to connect with each other, but it never really happened. Eventually, I found Golden Gardens beach, which I love, but it’s always so full of people, it’s hard for me to find the peace I’ve always had at the beach at night. The water was cold, and a bit foreign. The Sound is salt, but so far from open ocean that you can’t even see it. There’s no watery horizon, clean of land. I made it out to La Push beach on the peninsula once, which is much more my sort of thing, but it’s a long enough drive to be impractical without an overnight stay, and I haven’t had the time and money at once to do it again. A few years, I’ve been out to a festival at Fort Flagler State Park, which overlooks the Sound and the Straight of Juan de Fuca (sort of), and which, in the mist that’s usually hanging around in Spring when I’ve been, almost looks like there might not be land right there.
I’ve never found a tree to love, either.
My knees are bad and getting worse, and going for long walks to find places to feel happy is less and less often an option.
In Melbourne (where I grew up), I had a circle of friends who would ask me for tarot readings, or for advice on paganism, and such. In Tallahassee, though I never joined any group, I was part of a shifting, amorphous social circle of pagan, semi-pagan, and occultist community of 20-something, and people came to me for help. I gave tarot readings for tips at a local bookstore. I had a community to serve. (Part of my worship of Hekate is to work magic, especially theurgy, for others, and to teach is when they ask.)
I never found a community to serve here, either. I can’t help but connect not having a land-base with not having a community to serve.
I’m renewing and deepening (re-deepening?) my practice after several years of not keeping regular ritual or worship. When I owned a restaurant, that ate all of my life. I still had a ritual room in the house, I still felt my dedication to Hecate and to Dionysos. I designated the restaurant as a shrine to Hestia, and its pilot lights as her eternal flames. I kept a statue of Hermes in the office, and asked him for help with business and money. But I kept no practice that fulfilled me personally.
But now I’ve started doing my morning ritual again, and I’m doing a tarot study as a way of warming up my symbolic-thinking muscles. I’m keeping the ritual of Hekate’s Supper at the new moon, and worshipping Dionysos ecstatically when I need to. I can tell it’s starting to work, because the little synchronicities are starting again. The same topics or phrases coming up repeatedly through a day, a friend mentioning a video I’ve never heard of, then coming home to find it on my Tumblr dash. They don’t mean anything yet, but that I’m seeing them again means I’m paying attention more. It’s a good thing.
I stopped weaving for a while. Ran out of steam on the big piece, focused more on spinning for the Tour de Fleece, then burned out on that. Frustrated. But I’m starting that up again, too. I’m working on a set of Saori-styled straps that were originally part of a Ravelry weave-a-long, which is now long over. It’s not complex, but it lets me flex my intuitive-weaving muscles a bit before I go back to the seascape.
I’ve mostly abandoned WordPress since I found out they reinstated a blog that outed, harassed and threatened trans women — not incidentally, but as the central mission — after WordPress had taken it down for terms of service violation. I’m trying to find another blogging platform that I like, but the platform I did find and was starting to move things to shifted to a pay model, and I simply don’t have the funds at the moment to spend anything at all to maintain a blog. I wouldn’t post this, but I really wanted to put these thoughts down in a space dedicated to religion and magic rather than my personal LJ, and I have this. I really don’t want to generate more content for this site, and as soon as I can, I’ll be moving this blog elsewhere. But this is going here for now.
And here’s a shot of the straps, which are on a backstrap loom I made myself, and made too narrow, so it’s kind of a pain to use.
Many, many years ago, at least ten now, my mentor-in-all-things-fiber, Ann, gave me a book charkha. I never really learned to use it well, and it’s been in the back of the junk-room-that-was-supposed-to-be-a-craft-room for years.
Wait. Back up. What’s a book charkha? Well, a charkha is an Indian spinning wheel with a very high drive ratio, operated by hand, and suitable for spinning very short staple-length fibers like cotton. (If you need definitions for any of that, ask.) A book charkha is a portable charkha built into a folding case that can be anywhere from the size of a hardcover to the size of a briefcase. Mine’s about the size of one volume of my Absolute Sandman collection. (And a lot lighter.) So, an oversized hardcover.
Charkhas became a tool and symbol of the Indian independence movement, re-popularized by Gandhi himself. Cotton was one of the most economically important crops in India, but under British rule, it was shipped to England for processing, spinning and weaving. Gandhi strove to take back the means of production and put it in the hands of the Indian people. Traditional floor charkha, while lovely wheels in many ways, aren’t terribly portable, which Gandhi thought important, so he held a competition for a more portable design. The book charkha was the winning design. Charkha are very easy to use, and also meditative to use. He recommended that every household in India have one, and that everyone in — adult or child, of any gender — use the charkha for at least an hour a day, often in public, as a form of passive resistance. This would mean that India would spin its own cotton, and so could begin weaving it again for use and sale.
Ann had a friend who went to India, found a cheap, tourist-grade charkha, bought it and gave it to Ann. Now, Ann already had a very nice book charkha, so she said thank you very nicely, fiddled with it long enough to get it working smoothly (shimming this, tweaking that, making new drive bands, adding nylon washers, etc), and then stuck it in a corner. When she started hanging around with me a few years later, she was kind enough to give it to me.
After her hacking, it works perfectly well, I’m just not very good at it. It relies on a long draw technique, which I’ve never been good at.
But! The Tour de Fleece, in which spinners on Ravelry spin every day the Tour de France rides, is coming up in about six weeks, and I’m planning on joining in this year. My first goal is simply to spin every day, because I’ve gotten out of the habit again, and I don’t like that. But you’re also supposed to set goals for “challenge days” — the days when the cyclists are doing really hard shit, like climbing mountains twice — and I decided to make mine using my charkha, which should provide me plenty of challenge, since I am strictly a spindle girl, and the charkha is the only wheel I own.
So I dug into the junk room and found it (and feel terribly accomplished) when I went in there to dig for fiber (and also discovered that I have two whole totes full of felting fiber, which I will have to find something to do with at some point).
And here are a bunch of pictures (please excuse the remains of the mawata painting earlier in the evening):
The closed case of the charkha. It’s about 16″ long.
Opened, not yet set up.
All set up. On the far right is the drive wheel. The small wheel is the accelerator. The second band leads from the accelerator wheel to the spindle held in the mousetrap.
Close shot of the wheels. Under them, you can see a spring. The accelerator wheel sits on a metal spoke mounted on that spring. It’s used to create the tension between the two wheels.
The little triangle knob on the drive wheel is for turning it. This will become slightly more interesting later, if you care about histories of wheels.
That spring and mount.
Front of the mousetrap, so called because of its appearance and spring. And because it does, indeed, snap. The spring in the mousetrap provides tension for the accelerator-to-spindle band.
My nails are not dirty, they’re stained with dye.
The back of the mousetrap, with the slots that hold the spindle.
The spindle itself, about 7″ long, and sharp enough to draw blood. No falling asleep!
The sliding top box that holds the small bits and pieces when not in use, as well as a fold-down thread guide/tensioner for use with the skein winder.
Skein winder? It has a skein winder? Where?
There it is! Those two pieces fit in around the wheel when the box is closed.
And some cotton top and thread spun by Ann that she gave me with the wheel.
Now, I had thought that the charkha was maybe fifteen years old, but it may be at least thirty. Several things about it are considerably less streamlined than the current standard design, which you can see in detail over here. In particular, it lacks the dedicated slots for the spindles, the arm to steady the box while spinning, has the wooden crosspiece skein winder instead of a hub with metal arms, and the mousetrap is clunky and has only bare wooden cutouts to hold the spindle, and has no metal handle for turning the wheel, only the little triangle knob. At first, I thought that the handle was just missing, so I contacted New World Textiles to ask about a replacement, and also some more spindles as mine has only one. The owner, though, heard the rest of my description of the thing, and told me that it was very unusual, and that the current design had been the standard for at least thirty years, as long as she’d been working with them. It’s also possible of course that mine is just a cheaply-made knockoff. Still looking around for more information.
Oh, hey, project picture post time! This is for a cocoon shrug for my mom, and is the one I talked about in my last post, about the ocean. So, from the most recent back to the first, here are the pictures to date:
I’m having fun with it. It’s slow, though. It took something like 14 hours worth of work to get a yard of fabric. It’s those curves. They take forever.
I’m thinking of starting a smaller project on the copper loom, something arty. I’ve been rereading The Orphan’s Tales books by Cat Valente, and may do something inspired by that. I’m thinking about the hunger of the mice. Could be fun. Dye some silk mawata, draft them out but don’t spin them, and use them all fluffy for the colors the mice eat.