Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Fitness and the loom

I have woven standing at one sort of loom or another for the last 5 years.  I started tapestry weaving at Northern New Mexico Community College (now Northern New Mexico College) working on Rio Grande standing looms.  Then I made one and wove in my own studio.  Now I am weaving on a Glimakra which has been raised on 2 by 6’s.  The secret to weaving standing up (unless you have a walking loom) is locking treadles.  I highly recommend locking treadles on any loom wider than about 36 inches on which you are going to weave tapestry.  Of course if you are one of those “normal” tapestry weavers who uses an upright loom (where you can actually see the piece you’re working on and sit without hunching over like you’re 90 years old), then you don’t need to heed my suggestion.  Your loom already has “locking treadles” anyway.  I’m hoping I can figure out some way to put locking treadles on the Harrisville rug loom I just acquired.  If you’re a carpenter and need a project, let me know.

I like the biomechanics of standing while weaving.  It feels easier on my body, though still hard on the neck and shoulders.  As I approach the tender young age of 37, and considering the prior post about McDinner and Yoga Journal, I have been thinking more about fitness (yes, I know that as a health care provider I should have been thinking about fitness much earlier than 36… but we all think we’re immortal for much of our lives, don’t we?). 

I’ve got this bug lately to learn a little bit about rock climbing.  This may have come from a chapter I read in an adventure book by a woman who solo climbed Half Dome.  Now, I have no desire whatsoever to find myself on a multi-day climb sleeping 1000 feet off the nearest horizontal surface (or at least the one that gravity would take me to should that little piece of metal stuck in the rock upon which my weight is resting fail)… and really that might be more about the questions surrounding the guy who is hanging on his little hammock just ABOVE me on the rock.  I mean, I totally expect that he would pack out his poop—climbers do this on long climbs, right?   But what guy isn’t going to pee over the edge of that little shelf he is sitting on?  I don’t want that particular shower.

But perhaps a climbing wall would be an appropriate place to start learning to climb.  My legs are in fair shape considering I haven’t been inside a gym in at least 9 years—and all that standing at the loom has to help, right?  But my arms are whimpy little twigs that wouldn’t hold me up for a second.  So I was hoping that climbing might increase my upper body strength—you know, so I could look like those gals in the Athleta catalogs.  But I have disturbing flashes of myself hanging from one hand, other arm and two legs flailing for purchase, me hoping that my screams of terror aren’t disturbing the 5-year-old who is 15 feet above me on the wall, and the person belaying me yelling, “You’re only 2 feet off the ground!  Let go!”  Maybe there is a private climbing gym for those of us who don’t own anything made by Prana and who don’t think we could manage this activity with a paper bag over our heads… you know, sort of a private climbing wall for the inept.

Monday, April 20, 2009

McDinner for Celiacs

I'm more than halfway finished with the petroglyph piece I'm working on at my teacher's studio in Santa Fe.  Whoo hoo!  It still seems slow, but what do you expect from a 48 inch square piece.  I have learned that switching from 8 epi to 10 epi is not all that easy, that 48 inches square is a lot of square inches to weave, and that if you don't pull those turns tight around the warp or make your jump-overs snug, the little suckers will exact retribution in the end--your piece will spread like an oil slick when you take it off the loom.  Too much weft is not a good thing.

On my way home from weaving in Santa Fe tonight, I picked up a new bookshelf I had ordered at the furniture store (I know, I know--those of you who know me are thinking, well that is one step down the slippery slope to complete book take-over and we're going to find her buried under a pile of hiking books one of these days... but really it is a small bookshelf, and I needed more space for all the books about treating kids I've had to buy lately to do my job--good excuse, right?  They're heavy--maybe I should put them on the bottom shelf just in case.)... and on my way home I stopped for McDinner at McDonalds.  I was sipping on my carcinogen-laced Coke and eating my hamburger straight out of Fast Food Nation and reading, of all things, an article in Yoga Journal called "Diet for a green planet."  (Those of you who have read books like Fast Food Nation will recognize the irony in that.)

My excuse for stopping for McDinner is that I have celiac disease.  At McDonalds, you can get a hamburger served in a plastic salad container without a bun.  I usually have to tell the clerk three times, "No bun"  (You said no bun?  Huh?  "Yes, no bread please" Are you sure? "Yes, I'll go into anaphylactic shock and die in your restaurant if you as much as let a crumb touch my burger"  This is definitely not true, but putting the fear of god into someone in the food business is my last best way to make sure I don't get sick.)  I was diagnosed in 2005 and found that many things in my world changed after that.  You don't realize how much of our social structure revolves around food until you can't eat just any old thing anymore.  

For instance, potlucks are mine fields (Sally SAYS there isn't any wheat in her salad, but then she remembers later that she used soba noodles, not rice noodles and she is so so sorry), restaurants are a guessing game (can I trust this waiter who refuses to go ask the chef if the ginger sauce has flour thickener, modified food starch, or soy sauce in it?), and your elderly aunt just can't understand why you won't eat her cookies no matter how many times you shout in her good ear that you can't eat wheat (Peat?  You can't eat peat?  Who would do that?).  If you have celiac disease, you know what I'm talking about--the body's revenge for screwing up can be fierce and unrelenting--it forces you to do things like note which public places have bathrooms you can run into without anyone giving you the evil eye for not being a customer.  Just the other day I found myself running across a parking lot and ducking into Wells Fargo because I knew they had a bathroom in the lobby.  If anyone asked, I was going to tell them I was pregnant and it was an emergency.  (That isn't true mom, sorry).

So I was sitting in McD's  reading the latest issue of Yoga Journal and cutting my hamburger with silverware thinking about improving my fitness level and how eating at McDonalds probably condemns you to hell for eternity.  Maybe I can start by getting the 100 pound bookshelf out of my car.  I hope I don't give myself a hernia.  I'm a pretty spry chick, but although it is only 2 feet wide, it is 7 feet tall and made of oak (I know I said it was small, but clearly it is bigger than a bread box)...  Maybe I can store the books in the shelf in the car for awhile.  Or perhaps I can just tell my neighbor I'm pregnant and get him to carry it inside for me.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Forever taxes

I'm such a freak, I really was worried I wouldn't get my quarterly estimated taxes out today and I would be left to mail them on the last possible day tomorrow.  I am not good with "last possible day" scenarios.  Fortunately, I very capably made it to the post office today, bought stamps, and put them in those blue boxes they have there where they assure you a postmark dated 4/14/09 will be affixed and the IRS will not hunt me down for the obscene amount of money I had to pay them (turns out being an independent contractor sucks when it comes time to pay those estimated taxes.  The paycheck looks so good before you take out about 40% for the state and fed not to mention gross receipts tax.  And there is something scary called a self-employment tax to the tune of 15.3%.  I couldn't bear to inquire too closely about that one.)  Well, the post office didn't actually assure me that the IRS wouldn't hunt me down, just that they'd do the postmark part of the bargain... and the clerk cheerfully informed me that postage is going up to 44 cents on May 11.  Good to know--also good he sold me "Forever" stamps.

I was hoping to officially start the "weaving business" this year also since I'm getting my feet wet in the health care industry as an independent contractor.  It can't be that different right?  And I already bought Quickbooks and learned how to pay gross receipts tax--and just this week completed my first (hopefully successful) attempt to pay estimated taxes (I suppose we won't know for sure how well I did at this until we see how big the check I have to write at the end of the year is)... so really I should be able to run a little old weaving business and convince the IRS that it IS a business and I should be able to write off expenses (actually selling some work might help with this).  I lost some of my courage on this front with the whole estimated taxes thing, but I'm sure I'll rally.  Hopefully that happens before the July 15th estimated tax deadline where regression could occur again.  I may need some help from Saint Maurice.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

A truckload of bribery beer...

Well, my brother-in-law came through with flying colors.  See my previous post about the computer recovery project.  And the post before that about the unfortunate need for the recovery project.  I can now report that the data from my old Mac Powerbook G4 resides in my new MacBook (with some inner urging to get that backup hard drive ASAP as I heard a story about a woman who lost the hard drive on her brand new computer--not a Mac however!  As if that means anything really).  My brother-in-law Luke is officially entitled to his truckload of bribery beer.  I look at this as nothing short of a miracle.  It is all the sweeter as I had written off the data and moved on with my life.  Now I have the chance to go back and make use of those thousands of pictures, and I don't have to rewrite all those pesky things like a current resume (NOT that I expect to need one any time soon), not to mention all the electronic copies of work documents I didn't have and was going to need at the end of the school year.

I decided after a lovely invitation from my sister's mother-in-law followed up with enthusiastic entreaties from my sister to go up to Colorado for the Easter weekend.  I'm not much into looking for easter eggs (unless there is a borrowed child involved), but I am really into chocolate... and of course I love to see my family.  So I cancelled a sacred weaving day and drove up there in a snow storm yesterday.  I got to paint trim in an old dance hall, admire my mother-in-law's LOVELY naturally dyed easter eggs, eat a fabulous Easter brunch, sleep in a fabulous bed while it snowed outside, and the photos below tell you the rest...  Actually, I'm not in this first photo, but the use of the heat gun to get the fire going is legendary in this family when electricity is close enough--especially when you're grilling with wood not charcoal...
That is Luke, Olin, Laura (manning the heat gun), Lynn (BBQ queen), and RuthAnn.

Then I visited this apparent used car lot... which is suspiciously close to my sister's house.  She is quick to point out that not all of the 8 cars in this photo actually belong to them. 

Laughed at Luke's "solar four wheeler"...  long story involving a phone booth and a yurt.

And returned to the Land of Enchantment.  I didn't do one single weaving-related thing until I typed this sentence.  But tomorrow I will!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Tipping Point

I read Jennifer's blog post about Ethel Stein a few days ago and today I happened to be in Alamosa, CO where there is a great newstand (Narrow Gauge Newstand--an amazing little bookstore with the best magazine selection I've ever seen in a small town).  I picked up  the American Craft magazine with the article in it and was also amazed that Ethel is still weaving at 91.  I aspire to that!  Anyway, I was thinking about the snowball effect of information
how information gets spread in this time of instant everything.

For example, I read a blog written by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, also known as the Yarn Harlot.  She has something like 20,000 readers and hundreds of comments on each of her posts (see my favorite, laugh until you roll on the floor post here--see December 18th).  That is a lot of people!  I imagine it all started with a few people who enjoyed it who told their knitting friends and before you know it, she has a knitting book on the New York Times bestseller list (Not that she doesn't deserve it.  Her books are damn funny... and of course I've read all 5 of them).  When I was at the newstand today reading American Craft (and a few others that just jumped into my hands), I saw a book called The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell.  I haven't read the book (yet), but the premise seems to be that there is a moment in time when events happen in a way that everything changes at once.

My last post was about Iowa's supreme court declaring gay marriage legal.  I found out this morning that a few days later, Vermont's legislative body (it was legislative, not even a court decision!) voted to legalize gay marriage.  I don't have all the details of this legislation, but I can't help but wonder if we might be approaching a tipping point.  Apparently there are other states out there considering challenges--New York being one of them.  Perhaps New Mexico, which doesn't have a constitutional amendment defining marriage as whatever generally religious people think marriage (which is, after all, a civil right) should look like, will not be far down the list of places where this is possible.  

Maybe we're reaching a tipping point... and if not, then at least we can continue to laugh at Stephanie's blog.  Thank goodness!

Friday, April 10, 2009


Warning: following post contains politically charged content that has nothing to do with tapestry weaving... sort of like the rest of my life some days.

Dar Williams has a song called Iowa.
The first two lines of the song are, "I've never had a way with women, but the hills of Iowa make me wish that I could, And I've never found a way to say I love you, but if the chance came by, oh I, I would."  Dar was my first folk-singer love.  I sat amount hundreds of people listening to her for the first time in Lyons, CO at the fabulous Folks Festival there in 1996.  I didn't know at that exact moment that I would ever say this about that state but, Iowa, I want to officially say that I love you.  You have followed in the footsteps of your more progressive sisters Massachusetts, Connecticut, and California (and don't get me started on Prop 8--it will be overturned!)...

I am a westerner through and through.  I was born in Alaska and maybe that little fact was enough to make me the outdoorsy, open-sky, mountain-loving person that I am.  But in case you have been out backpacking or stuck under your loom for the last few weeks, as of April 27, 2009, gay people will be able to legally marry in Iowa.  God bless the supreme court of that rolling-hilled midwestern state.  May we all promote tolerance and love of each other in whatever paths life leads us down.  

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Georgia's mountain

I do a lot of driving for my job.  I try not to take kids in far-flung reaches of the county (and my county is bigger than most eastern states by a lot), but I did take a child who lives right under Peternal--Georgia O'Keefe's self-aclaimed personal mountain.  I love going up to the Piedra Lumbre.  I drove up to see this child this morning and had a few extra moments at Abiquiu Lake.  The water is high, and at 8am on a Tuesday, it is perfectly quiet.

I find myself telling people occasionally that the Piedra Lumbre is my heart place.  I'm not entirely sure what that means even.  We went to Ghost Ranch a lot when I was a kid, so maybe that childhood association has something to do with it.  It is mostly just a feeling I have when I am there... that the place is somehow different and that time doesn't mean anything there among the red rocks and surrounding mesas.  I know many tapestry weavers who have woven images of Peternal.  I've never been drawn to weaving landscapes myself.  All I know is that there is no way I could capture the feeling of the place in a tapestry.  It is too silent, too huge, and too personal.  I'll leave Georgia's mountain for her...  I can't promise I won't climb it again though.  But when I'm on the top I'll say a little prayer of thanks to Georgia for being the woman of the Piedra Lumbre that she was.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Archival or not?

Wow.  It has been a day.  I learned some things today.  Here they are in no particular order:
1.  If you live in northern NM and do home health care, take a vacation from the Friday before to the Monday after Holy Week.  There is a reason they schedule spring break for the kids then.  I had five (that is 5!) no-shows or cancellations today.  I had 5 kids scheduled.  That is 100%... worst day ever in terms of seeing kids.  Remind me to go hiking in Utah next year between Palm Sunday and Easter.  I decided after about the 3rd cancellation that next Friday, which is Good Friday, which I had decided to work, was now a holiday.  I think that is smart.
2.  NM is windy in the spring no matter what.  The kids at the charter school were doing an easter egg hunt and a little kid just got decapitated by a blown door.
3.  Stopping in at the fiber arts center (EVFAC) is always a good way to spend a half an hour when you've just spent your morning standing outside people's houses knocking on doors that don't open.  You can look at the new yarn, chat with the ladies who work there, and maybe have a few moments to sit on the couch and breathe.  This is what I found while sitting on that couch.

From Tapestry Topics (the newsletter of the ATA), Summer 2006, "The Cycle" by Lany Eila.
"...Suddenly I realized that perhaps the medium of tapestry itself is an apt metaphor for our perilous lives.  We spend extravagant quantities of time and energy carefully planning and weaving our lives and work, tucking in the stray threads, guarding against possible dangers, making it all to last--archival.  And yet we are constructing these lives and tapestries from inherently fragile materials; in the former, with bodies and relationships, in the latter, with hair, plant fiber, and color."  She was writing about a piece she did called "The Cycle" in response to catastrophies in her life and the world.

I have spent so much energy in my life making sure the pieces fit together snugly--sewing in the ends so to speak.  And too much time guarding against possible dangers.  My work life is structured and scheduled to the minute.  It is the only way I have found to make enough money in 3 days a week to allow me to weave the rest of the week.  There are days when my meticulous planning pays off and the day goes smoothly.  Then there are days like today.  Can I learn not to make my life so archival?  Probably...  Would that include more chocolate and trips to the hot springs?  We can hope!

I have been designing work lately that seems risky and far from the tapestry I learned in my traditional northern NM teaching.  I have stalled a little at getting any of this work beyond the design table.  It seems so fragile and from some place so far inside me that I am not sure I want it to see the bright light of day.  I am afraid both of what the piece might reveal about me and the possibility that I may never be able to go back
 to what is safe and "acceptable."  Of course, in time, I will move forward.  If we don't grow we grow bored and empty.  It is the waiting for that courage to kick in that is difficult.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

More about looms...

I sold my Gilmore.  You may remember this post from last year about my beloved Gilmore loom which I was forced to sell due to the sheer number of looms that were falling from the sky into my lap (all from my grandparents who had to move to Connecticut and abandon their weaving equipment to their ecstatic granddaughter).  I had that loom posted for sale on the internet for a very long time and had resigned myself to visiting it now and then in my storage shed and reassuring it that I would find it a good home--that really I still loved it but just didn't have room for it in my little house.  A very nice woman named Nancy and her husband rented a truck and drove all the way from Oklahoma (a state I have paid little attention to as it has no mountains) to pick up my sweet loom.  The fact that they rented a truck and drove all that way reassured me that the loom was going to a good owner, and frankly, what with tripping over the other two looms in my house (and I'm not even going to talk about the other three looms in the storage shed--no wait, there are four plus two inkle looms--oh geez I need an intervention here), I really haven't missed the Gilmore much.  I hope she has a long and lovely life weaving beautiful fabric in Nancy's studio.  Thanks for coming to get her Nancy!

And in a completely random switch in thought, I finally got around to looking up Saint Maurice on Wikipedia.  Lyn alerted me to the existence of this particular saint after my fumbling invocations surrounding the death of my computer.  Saint Maurice's history is full of a lot of Roman Emperors, bloodshed, martyrdom and a lot of other things that make me squirm, but if you're looking for someone to pray to, he is, according to Wikipedia, "the patron saint of soldiers, swordsmiths, and armies.  He is also inexplicably the patron saint of weavers, dyers, and invoked against menstrual cramps."  I have to agree with Lyn that he could be one useful guy!

And here is my progress on the 48 inch square tapestry (which I'm not revealing the name of it yet mostly because I don't have one--but you can pretend I'm trying to be mysterious.)  That is 20 inches baby!!!  Only 28 inches to go.  The color here is completely blown out and it looks like I just gave away my sneaky warp-tension fixing device (called a T pin).  I'm rolling along at the average rate of 2.5 inches a day.  Most excellent.  There was a frightening moment earlier this week where my teacher suggested that I consider tearing out 3 inches to change a color.  I was praying to Saint Maurice and swearing under my breath at the same time.  We finally decided that leaving the color as it was fit with my intentions for the piece.  The truth is nothing could have made me back out 3 inches on a 48 inch piece anyway.  I know weavers who would have (my teacher is one), but I just can't do it.  I have a lot of patience, but not that much.