Post #3263: End of Summer

The last Friday of the month is normally a “Comfort for the Apocalypse” day, but I’ve gotten behind lately. Not so much in terms of time, but I really haven’t had the brain space to get the newsletter done what with house concerts, end of summer canning, and a new job starting in just a couple of week’s time.

Brian also reminds me that I am always like this in the last two weeks of August. Late summer has always been a weirdly stressful and unfocused time in my annual cycle, and I need to learn to plan better for it!

I’ll be back on track shortly with more here and there!

Post #3262: Myself Again

The other night I somehow managed to knock my water glass off my bedside table and awoke from a dead sleep to the sound of glass shattering against my metal bed frame. Fortunately most of the glass and water went behind the bed and not into it, but it was one of those completely terrifying moments just the same. The strange thing is, the top of my bedside table is not level with my bed (it sits several inches higher) and I was sleeping on my side which means that my non-dominant hand must have suddenly shot up and swept the glass off the edge in a fairly deliberate motion. I was in a deep dream state when this happened, so perhaps something subconscious triggered action, but I’m not normally someone who acts out dreams or sleep walks. I have mostly had a tendency towards sleep paralysis, the opposite condition.

Besides this totally bizarre incident, my insomnia has abated this week. Between that and the cooler temperatures, I am out of my floating state and feel much more like myself again. If there is anything this summer has reminded me, it’s that I am from Northern stock and much happier in the climate of my ancestors (Celtic, Scandanavian, Germanic)

This past week I have been attending a union convention via an online platform. This was scheduled for last summer, but cancelled and so we are catching up – just as we did with another convention in May. As much as I find union conventions a bit of a drag in person, they are worse online, with none of the usual sideline conversations or camaraderie (or drinks after session!) It is definitely possible to get the business done, but hard to feel the spirit of the thing when you are alone at home in front of you workaday computer.

Still, the good thing about online convention is that I am in my studio which means I’ve found lots of time while listening and during breaks to fool around at the weaving loom. Normally I knit during convention proceedings (keeping my hands busy helps my concentration), but at home I can get my weave on! This week I’ve finished one warp, wound the next one, and dressed my loom for another 8 yards of fabric. This is sample #3 from the Jane Stafford Weaving School, and I plan to make some towels and a scarf as I work through it over the next couple of weeks. After this project, I’ll be putting a commission on the loom to weave in September (that’s right – I’ve agreed to a first commission and will likely be open to others in the future).

I went for my first real run in nearly two months this week (I did a couple of 3kms on Cortes in July, but they were too short and hilly to count) – clocking 7 km at the behest of my running buddy who is not going to let me quit now that the weather is cooler. I’ve also been back on my workout schedule and thinking about what that is going to look like come fall. I had set some goals for this summer, but the heat and busyness of everything really dragged me out so I’m feeling pretty good just to have held onto my gains even though I didn’t advance them at all.

We’ve got two more house concerts at Birdsong before the summer closes out and I’ll be happy to be at the end of the series even though it has brought so much joy to our community and to us. Seven shows in 9 weeks is a lot to organize and it’s been the focus of most of our weekends over the summer. This has been a singular year in a number of ways (weather, covid, vaccination, coming out of a long dark winter) – and I don’t expect we will try to replicate a summer concert series to this degree next year.

I am definitely feeling the turn towards fall with the cooler weather and sprinkles of rain. Though we will likely have a dry/warm autumn, the change in the air is apparent and I hope it has an impact on the fires in the interior. I still have my fingers crossed that we’ll be able to go to our cabin outside of Princeton in a couple of weeks, but that all depends on the situation out there. For now I’m happy to be at home and rolling towards the seasonal transition (my favourite season is upon us!)

Post #3261: Spoiling the Party

You can always tell when you’ve thrown a wrench into someone’s plans.

This morning I was reminded of someone who came to visit a few years ago. She pretty obviously had a bit of a thing for Brian (my partner); they had met elsewhere and she was coming to stay for a few days. On her first arrival it was clear she was not warm to me, and over the course of the next few days her body language (and the fact she would not meet my eye when I spoke) belied a dislike, or at the very least, a discomfort around me. She was polite enough, but reserved when I could see she wasn’t that way with other people. It was odd, and at first I reviewed our interactions to try to identify what it was I had said or done to provoke this reaction. I can be a bit abrasive, forward, difficult – and I know this – but nothing I had said or done was anything but polite conversation. I couldn’t track exactly what was going on until it dawned on me that she had come a very long way to visit Brian after only knowing him for a few days in some other context. Call me naiive, but I hadn’t thought anything about that because I believe that we can have strong/close friendships with people whose gender we are attracted to. One of my best friends for the last twenty years is my pal Aaron who lives in New York. We regularly fly long distances to visit one another and there is no sexual subtext at all.

But in this case, I came to realize that the problem with me was nothing I had done, but the fact I had become real. As in, no longer the theoretical “wife”, but a real other human occupying a central role in the life my partner and I have created together.

To be clear, I do not believe she came here with the intention of breaking up our home or anything like that, but I do think a part of her imagined that perhaps I was on my way out, or maybe that we had a more flexible marriage. We all do the thing where we are interested in something and so we imagine it to be what we want, and we aren’t even conscious that have created a fiction until it is laid out for what it is. And there I was, laying it out for what it was.

There was no drama in the visit, the issue of my existence never came to a head and never created any particular problem. Brian wasn’t even sure that my read on the situation was the correct one (but the fact she never really contacted him again after the visit speaks volumes). But it sits with me as one of those moments, as in childhood, where you’re in trouble but you don’t really know why because no one makes their intentions or aggravations explicit.

I’ve been feeling this frequently over the last several weeks, though unlike this interaction from years ago, I know it’s related to some underlying anxiety that has been eating at me all summer. My senses are off, and I feel like I’m always saying or doing the wrong thing. Deep down, I’m sure it’s not the case, but that’s the problem with anxiety (and depression, for what it’s worth) – it occludes the truth with its very presence, making it hard to read the room. Perhaps this episode has come to mind because it was a trigger for social anxiety, and I’m feeling that same kind of social anxiety now, the kind where I only want to be around my safe people. Or perhaps my anxiety is related to the pandemic and general climate-change disturbance and that is really the wrench in everyone’s plans! Or maybe it’s that my meditation practice has been off-kilter for most of the summer (that’s very likely the culprit now that I think about it).

But for what it’s worth, every visitor leaves in the end, no matter what intentions (conscious or otherwise) they arrived with. Anxiety, people, daily practice, the conditions of our survival – they all come and go. A wind in the trees, a wave on the shore. We ride these moments out until our perspective changes them, allows us to see what was really happening all along.

Post #3260: The promise of Rain

The weather forecast keeps promising rain, but every day it’s supposed to come, the prediction is moved forward for a day. This results in a lot of frustration around here when we have decided that today will be the day the garden won’t need so much watering, but then it does anyways. Not to mention the whole drought thing that has everyone worried about their wells. I look now and see that what was supposed to be 2 days of rain is now 1 (a 60% chance of showers tonight and tomorrow) followed by what looks like another heat wave later next week. At the moment, the weather is feeling very reasonable and almost cool, so I’ll take what relief from the heat I can get!

The start of August marks a shift for me. Even though fall is technically weeks away – the month of August begins the dying time, a time of cutting back and simply maintaining what continues to thrive (like the dhalias). In a drought year, I feel it even more, with the lawn reduced to brown dust and the smoky skies. It’s still beautiful here on Gabriola Island and many good swims and outdoor dinners (and concerts) are ahead of us before we truly slip into fall, but it’s dark when I get up in the mornings again and I can’t help but notice the sharpening edge of autumn in the warm air.

I notice too how my projects shift without much planning. I found myself making a list of sewing projects for the first time in months, noting the gaps in my wardrobe to fill before the weather gets cold again, and buying some new patterns to try. I never want to sew in the summertime, but I can’t ignore the back-to-school energy of autumn that brings to mind new clothes and stationary supplies!

So after months of no sewing, I’ve got a muslin for a shirt in the works! It’s a pull-over top with a tunic option which are the kind of garments I need more of in my wardrobe. My body shape has changed a lot since I started lifting weights two years ago, so I’ve got some sewing to do to catch up with my fall and winter needs (I made a lot of summer things last year) – and shirts is where I am starting, to be followed by at least one dress and a couple of skirts and pairs of pants. Sewing is time consuming, so I don’t expect to get twenty new garments before the winter, but a few new things will help expand out the wardrobe.

For those who don’t know the lingo: A muslin is a way to test a pattern without cutting into the “good” fabric – I try to make my muslins out of thrift store fabric that I like, so if works, I have a wearable garment at the end. If it doesn’t, I don’t fret about the $2 on materials I’ve spent (the two thrift stores here sell fabric for next to nothing). Making a muslin isn’t mandatory, I don’t make one all the time – but shirts can be tricky for me (breasts!) so I often muslin dresses and shirts. I never bother to muslin with skirts or pants (I know the main alteration I have to do for every pants pattern and start there).

I’m still dyeing and weaving though! The dyeing will continue through until the end of September (or whenever the weather gets stinky) and weaving is year-round. I just need to somehow shoehorn in a little bit of time for garment making. No problem right?

In other news, I’m still waiting on paperwork for the new job so I can’t talk about it quite yet, but I have been assured that it’s happening. I just don’t know exactly when. My regular work continues apace in any event, and I’ve taken on a small accessibility project for August which will round out my summer of bits and pieces.

While July was pretty busy, August will see me at home for the whole month and not hosting nearly so many people! We do have house shows the next three weekends in a row, but beyond that I am looking forward to hunkering down in the studio and getting the house in order for the fall. There will likely be some canning activity this month (there has been remarkably little so far), but I’m not feeling uptight about filling the shelves or anything. I do have some limes leftover from our August long weekend party that I’ll be making some lime pickle with this weekend! But besides that I’ve got no plans in the near future and that feels pretty great right about now.

Post #3259: Summer Textile School Weeks 7-9

The last few weeks have been really busy with vacation and then the big annual party we throw on the August long weekend – so I’ve been behind in documenting my process here, and not able to spend as much time in the studio as I would like. I will be around for the whole month of August and intend to spend lot of time in the studio before my next vacation break in September. 

Dyeing Activities

  • I was running low on sample skeins so I mordanted four more skeins in alum and wound three of those into mini-skeins. The winding was a perfect project to take on vacation to Cortes Island. 
  • Added marigold and pomegranate to the dye stash. Love the marigold on yarn! Used the pomegranate to create an olive grey with iron.  
  • I am still trying to find a true red and along the way have made a plum colour, brown, and another burgundy. Today I’m trying cochineal with cream of tartar. We’ll see how it goes.
  • I dyed a cotton shawl with Brazilwood and am quite unhappy with the colour – it’s so muted that I think I’ll have to dye again. 
Brazilwood, marigold, madder and cochineal in various combinations.

Weaving Activities

  • Warped and wove samples from the Colour and Weave Gamp (Project 2 of Season 2 of Jane Stafford Weaving School)
  • Watched more of the Season 2 lessons including Colour Theory – much of which was repeat from other courses I’ve taken. Honestly, the best colour theory crash course has been the natural dyeing work.
  • Had a big realization that I was treadling and beating in a less-than-optimal order. I had fallen into a weird habit and fortunately managed to click out of it which immediately improved my weaving.
  • Agreed to a weaving commission which is the first time I’ve felt confident enough around my work to sell it. I’ve been resistant to selling my work for reasons other than confidence but I wouldn’t mind another small income stream and I have a pretty good idea of how much time something will take and how that translates into what I should ask for a custom piece. 
Pattern sampler.
Tea towel in five colours.
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