The Difference Between Failing, Giving Up, and Stopping Here

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.


Devotional piece for Athene

Since weaving and spinning are becoming a significant part of my life again, my art and my meditation, I have been wanting to do a devotional piece to Athene in her guise as patron of fiber arts. At first, I was going to do a small tapestry, but I turn out to be very bad at the planning stage of that. Really. Bad. Ugh. So I’ve been looking for something else to do.

I found, on one of the Saori groups on Ravelry, the idea of a diary hanging. People with writing words on strips of paper, ribbon, fabric, whatever they liked, and weaving it into the web. So I decided to do that with a prayer to Athene.

Pallas Athene
Athene Ergane
Weaver, Goddess who stands alone, independent
Steady and support my spindle
Let my warp not tangle
Guide my shuttle and my needle
Grant me both inspiration and skill

I am using some of my oldest yarns. A coarse, dark grey wool that was the second yarn I spun when I was learning (the first was a stripy grey-and-white, and I wove it on an inkle loom and turned it into a belt, with a nifty dragon-headed penanular buckle); a green wool-and-mohair that came from a friend’s goat, that had died recently (Vincent van Goat, in fact); the very first cobweb weight yarn I spun, a white wool, single-ply and over-twisted, which had been sitting in a skein for twelve years at least, and was hairy and felted and tangled and broken in many places. I pieced enough of the white cobweb together to make a warp out of, and I wrote out the prayer, line by line, on strips of paper I made. I’m also including the newest threads I’ve spun, reeling silk and bamboo straight of the spindles of works in progress. And I’m using bits of leftover yarn from my last project, the scarf for my wife.

I’m weaving very loose and open, a technique I have not used before, but so far I’m liking it. I may end up backing it with something, though. Which will let me get in sewing as well as the spinning and weaving already there. I might dye the backing myself, too, to get that aspect. I’m also experimenting for the first time with having random warp threads double- or triple-sleighed.

This piece is very much about how far I have come since those first yarns, and how far I have yet to go in my craft. It’s also a sacrifice, not just of the work of making it, but of the thread I’m currently spinning, and of the attempt at new techniques.

The imperfections of the piece are also becoming very important. My ancient wool warp keeps breaking, and I have to knot in new lengths to repair it. I leave long ends on these, and do not try to hide them. Where Arachne the weaver showed hubris in trying to compete with Athene at weaving, I am showing all my mistakes and flaws, in humility. (But now I wish I’d added “or break” after “Let my warp not tangle.”)

The biggest challenge of this piece wasn’t the physical difficulties — although the warp broke, threads from different sheds caught on one another, and both the warp and the weft threads I reeled off the spindles were “energized” so that they kept kinking up — but psychological. Weaving so loosely is very new for me, and the way the threads don’t lay tidily alongside one another, and the uneven beating, and the warp thread that broke inside the web so I couldn’t repair it without undoing a bunch of weaving, and the occasional float, well, they aren’t things I’m accustomed to tolerating in my work. I’m having trouble liking the piece, even though it’s exactly what I set out to do. Hell, because it’s exactly what I set out to do, which was to do something very different for me, to put myself outside my comfort zone, to stretch, as tribute.

Athene has never been a favorite goddess of mine. She’s always seemed very distant to me. As I weave this, I’m finding places where I’m closer to her than I thought. I’m discovering things about her independence, her . . . not quite solitude, but her ability to stand alone, and to be strong alone, that are resonating strongly for me right now.

Most of these posts I crosspost to LJ and DW, but I’m skipping it this time. It’ll automatically be posted to Tumblr and Twitter, and I’ll let it, but I’m also not posting it to any of the discussion boards on Ravelry, not even the one that inspired it, or the pagan one I follow. I’m feeling weird and self-conscious about sharing religious bits again.

If there are tense inconsistencies, it’s because I wrote this in bits and pieces as I worked, and not at all linearly.