Seascape Cocoon Shrug

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.

On Inspiration and Process

What I’m noticing about my process with Saori is this: I start out with an idea in mind. Not a goal, not a plan, but something around which I build the piece. In the rainbow scarf for my wife, the idea was simply to use rainbow yarns: variegated through a bright spectrum, or multicolored plies, or whatever else I found. The landscapes themselves from the colors as I went.

Now I’m working on an oceanic piece for my mom. I wanted the feel of the warm ocean off Florida (where she lives and I grew up), the Gulf Stream, the Gulf itself, the waters around the Keys. I began to build a yarn stash for it around those colors and those images. Some of them were things I had already in my stash, that I had bought before or that someone had given me (I have a bunch of odds and ends that people give me, actually), and some were bought with the project in mind. I thought a lot about the sea in its different moods as I knew it, in summer and winter, in clear weather and in hurricanes, at the beach and in the deeps, on the surface and below it. I wanted all of those. A light chop, huge rollers, the dim grey waters at the winter solstice (my friends and I used to stay up all night, watch the sun rise on the beach, and take a cold dip), the bright warmth of snorkeling in the summer at Looe Key. I wanted kelp forests and tropical fish, and the light refracting through the water on the white sand below.

So I collected yarn in those colors, and I browsed Google Image for pictures that struck a chord with me. Photos, but also drawings and paintings. Japanese paintings of towering waves and the fish-waves from Ponyo inspired me. So did the art of Guy Harvey (somewhat to my chagrin; he’s a something of a cliche among sportfisherman and sailboat types, but he actually turns out to be pretty nifty). Photos like this one and this one of macrocystic kelp forests. Oh, and pictures like all of these of sunset at Key West. And these, of the beach in the area where I grew up.

I live in Seattle now. I don’t know much about the cold waters around here. I make it out to the beach on the Sound relatively often, but rarely out to the Pacific. It’s beautiful, but not in the way the waters I knew for twenty years were. And it’s not the water my mother knows and loves, so it’s not what I want to make for her.

I’m spending lots of time building small curves and large ones, for the movement of the water. Waving seaweed. Right now I’m working on a coral reef. It’s all fairly impressionistic, rough outlines, swirls, feelings-as-shapes. It’s not meant to be representational, but evocative. I’m using tapestry techniques to achieve much of it, as well as Saori techniques. There’s one of the latter, I can’t remember its name or find the book to look it up, but I think of it as “wandering yarn”, that’s proving to be quite a good way of giving the flavor of fan corals and branching corals. I say that I’m not a tapestry weaver, and I mean that, because I don’t plan what I’m doing more than a step in advance, much less draw out cartoons and then charts. I don’t have the mindset for that. But I can grab those techniques and use them to good effect as impressionistic, evocative images in Saori weavings, unplanned. They’ll never be as precise as a traditional tapestry, but they serve my purpose and my imageries.

My next big piece will be another rainbow scarf, this one for my dad. He asked for one that was “all bright colors, like my wife’s.” Nearly twenty years I’ve been out, and he’s never caught on why I and the women I date like rainbows. That’s ok, whether he knows it or not, he’ll be wearing Pride colors, and I know he’s proud of me.

But I didn’t want to repeat myself, of course. So I started casting about for different inspiration. And I found this:

It’s Jupiter in chain stitch, and it sparked something. My dad has his PhD in astrophysics and cosmology, and he taught astronomy. I remember staring up with him at a clear, clear sky full of stars, while he pointed them out to me and told me about them. As soon as I could read, I started to learn why the stars had the names they had, what the constellations were and what stories were told about them, as well as about what they were and what they did. It led me to Greek mythology, which, in the long run, led to my religion (shhh, don’t tell him that).

So then I started collecting images of the the storms of Jupiter and rings of Saturn, and then I quickly moved further out, finding nebulae and galaxy clusters and voids and things I do not understand at all, but are gorgeous, galaxies, a supernova remnant, this fantastic cone shape that graphs the expansion of space over time, if I understand it correctly. These and more I have stuffed away in a bookmark folder, to look at as I start, and as I look at yarns to buy. More of the Mochi yarn I used for my wife’s scarf, although possibly fatter. Pulled silk sari threads, to spin loosely and deconstruct in the middle of the piece for wisps. Silver filament plied with deepest black, for the billions and billions of stars.

That one is months off, though. I still have Mom’s to get to. I’m one yard into a three yard warp, with ten hours logged, probably another two I forgot to log. Call it twelve hours, over a month. There’s only so much of the delicate, fiddly work I can do at a time. (And I got sick, which means I lost about ten days there where I just felt too crappy to move.) Most weavers want the loom down around waist-level, as it’s most ergonomic for simply passing the shuttle back and forth. But since I’m doing lots of pick-ups and small passes and trying to see which thread I want to turn at this time, I need it closer to my face. I’m now weaving sitting in front of a tallish table, with the front of resting on my (rather ample) chest, just so I’m not bending over it constantly to see and giving myself huge knots in my neck and shoulders, When I finally get a Saori loom, I’ll have to get one of the adjustable ones, so I can jack it up high when I need to. My upper arms do get tired, though, and I may work for an hour or two without gaining more than an inch of fabric out of it.

One of my Rav boards started talking about quotes we found inspiring or applicable for our weavings. This was my contribution:

She became dance’s analogue of the jazzman.



Dance was, for Shara, self-expression, pure and simple, first, last, and always.
Once she freed herself from the attempt to fit into the world of company dance, she came to regard choreography per se as an obstacle to her self-expression, as a preprogrammed rut, inexorable as a script and as limiting. And so she devalued it.
A jazzman may blow Night in Tunisia for a dozen consecutive nights, and each evening will be a different experience, as he interprets and reinterprets the melody according to his mood of the moment. Total unity of artist and his art: spontaneous creation. The melodic starting point distinguishes the result from pure anarchy.
In just this way Shara devalued preperformance choreography to a starting point, a framework on which to build whatever the moment demanded and then jammed around it. She learned in those three busy years to dismantle the interface between herself and her dance. Dancers have always tended to sneer at improv dancing, even while they practiced it, in the studio, for the looseness it gave. They failed to see that planned improv, improv around a theme fully thought out in advance, was the natural next step in dance.

-Spider and Jeanne Robinson, Stardance

I wouldn’t go so far as to call myself a jazzman in that sense, but it is very much how I try to work. A starting point, and improvisation.

Woolly Dionysos

My two patron deities are Hekate and Dionysos. I work with others, but those are the most important to me. I keep altars to each of them in my ritual room, which see regular use. My Hekate altar is small and simple and fairly plain, but has multiple images of the goddess on it. My Dionysos altar is large and complex and has lots of stuff, but no image of the god. (I had one. I took it elsewhere for a ritual, and it broke.) The Zati book had instructions for a doll, so I thought I’d give it a shot. At first he was too Jesusy:

Jesus does not belong on my Dionysos altar. Nope. So I added leaf and grape cluster beads to his fillet, and when that wasn’t quite enough either, I borrowed some Green Man iconography, and gave him a green cloak trimmed with leaves. (Trying to make a felt leopard skin sounded like faaaaar too much work.)

I am reasonably pleased. I want to make him a thyrsos, whenever I find my tiny pinecones. The vertical stripes are meant to represent the pleats in a bassara, the long version of the chiton, which Dionysos wore. (It was usually a woman’s garment, so D was considered to be somewhat . . . gender transgressive, shall we say?)

I’m working on a second doll, this one a Valkyrie, for the Ravelry Folklore and Fairy Tales group’s read-along/knit-along/weave-along of the Volsung Saga. I did go and reread the story, if not the longer translation, and I’d forgotten most of that, but I was surprised to see how much of the rest of the mythology I remembered in the discussion. I ended up explaining the context of the mistletoe dart, and then giving some of the reasons the Aesir lose at Ragnarok, and was able to reel off a lot of it off the top of my head.

I may, if this one comes out well, try doing a Hecateon somehow, the three-form Hecate pillar.

In other news, I treated myself to some fancy wool batts, and am having fun spinning those. I want to chain ply the yarn and send it to my Mom, who crochets, but she doesn’t do tiny fine stuff, so it’s not like I can send her my usual cobweb yarns. So I’m spinning fingering weights, and it’s more fun than I remember. And it goes so much faster! I’d forgotten how fast spinning can go! Whee!

The wool is not as soft as I had expected, which is probably the Coopworth/Romney, but it’s pretty colors. And it’s fun to spin, and I’ll get to practice my chain plying.


I hate winding warps. I hate warping looms. It’s so boring and repetitive to me. Hating it makes me slower at it. I always want to just dive in and start weaving, doing something where I can see that I’m making something, actually create. It can’t be done, though. You have to lay the foundation before you can start to build.

I’m starting a new piece tonight, a cocoon wrap for my mother, in ocean colors and waves. I’ve never done a highly varied warp before. My wife’s scarf had a little variation, a few threads that were double strands of very fine Habu silk and steel, but it didn’t have a lot of effect on texture. So I’m mixing it up a little, trying to shake it up some, trying to put some creativity into the warp itself, to make it a little less dull, as well as to give the piece more texture and color.

But before I could even start to wind the warp, I had to wind two skeins of yarn — nearly a third of a mile’s worth — into center-pull balls to pull from. I have a ball winder, but no swift (a device that winds yarn into a reel and also allows you to pull smoothly from a skein when winding a ball), and my sweetie wasn’t available to hold the skeins for me to wind from. So I ended up looping them over my computer desk, and unwinding and winding up in sections, and it was a serious pain. Literally. My neck and shoulders are in knots.

I’m just taking a break now, and typing this while I try to loosen up my muscles before I start winding the warp.


The next morning:

OK, ow. I did, in fact, wind the warp, and it was much more interesting than it has been previously, and that is awesome. It also got much trickier to keep the crosses straight (I put one at each end of the warp), because I would stop to switch threads between circuits, and I’d lose track of which way I was going in a way I don’t when it’s a continuous motion. But it was significantly less annoying.

But oh, was I sore afterwards. Unwinding skeins with no swift, winding balls of yarn with the winder off at a funny angle from me to minimize tangling, and then warping, left me with all kinds of knots. So I lay on some heating pads for a while before going to sleep, and that helped.



It bothers me that warping bothers me so much.

I threaded the reed and wound the warp onto the back beam, but the paper I had for putting between layers (cut from paper grocery bags) wasn’t quite wide enough, and now both edges of the warp are wound wrong. I ordered some craft paper of the correct width, which should be along tomorrow, but once again, warp is frustrating for me.

So I’m taking a little time off from it while I wait for the paper to arrive. In the mean time, I have warped my Zati loom for a receiving bowl in the colors of our cat MacGuffin who died recently, and I finally built my copper pipe tapestry loom and warped that. I have a few ideas for making small panels on it using Saori techniques (including one called WWW+, which if it works, I will post here for all to see) and layering them to make a Steampunk bustle. We shall see how that works.

I’m trying to get more positive about warping. Right now, it’s a roadblock, something that keeps me from being creative, and I waste days between projects, trying to work up the motivation to warp the loom. One of the things I am most looking forward to about a Saori loom is the pre-wound warp. Thread it through heddles and sleigh, tension, and go. Still a chunk of work, but cutting down any of it sounds wonderful.

In the mean time, all I can do is try not to let it slow me down too much.

Warp for Mom’s Seascape

Guff’s receiving bowl

Copper loom, warped with linen thread