It’s Sunday, April 5, 2020, and my wife and I are staying home, self-quarantining. The COVID-19 epidemic has forced us to stay home and stay safe. It feels a little odd to be home for this many hours at a time and not get out. We have gotten a lot of little jobs done around the house—jobs such as sorting out closets, painting a spare bedroom, and cleaning the shed—and of course, we are weaving and spinning and finishing hems and fringes on projects that have been tossed aside for a rainy day. Well, that day has come it seems, and it appears we have a few more days to go.
As warps get woven off and looms become empty, it’s time to think about the next projects that will need to go on. For the first time in my life I am getting a start on Christmas presents in April, not mid-November. Look at me being so efficient.
Cindy is excited about weaving Susan Poague’s Circles and Checks Towels from the May/June 2019 issue of Handwoven. She’s thinking about the warp colors now and will soon call in a yarn order to help keep the economy going. Shops are still sending out orders if they have the thread, although we miss being able to see and touch the yarns in person.
I’m thinking about weaving some rag rugs. I would love to make a dent in the fabric stash upstairs, all purchased with the idea of weaving rag rugs someday. Someday appears to be here. Unlike when planning a towel warp, which can be threaded to any color combination of my liking, I often turn to the colors in the fabrics I’m using to tell me what colors to use for my rug warps. This time however, I have a lot of neutral-colored fabrics, so maybe I will try a different approach and get some ideas from nature or the things I see around me. I think it’s time to take a break from the house and go for a walk outside for a little inspiration.
I seem to be somehow blessed in that I see patterns and unusual color combinations all about me. It takes a little practice to see it, but inspiration is everywhere. Take this example: When I step outside onto the decking, I see the newly stained boards running horizontally. If I turn 90 degrees, the boards are running vertically. Between each board is a dark, shadowy space made as a result of the boards shrinking over time. I think about this observation as possible stripes. They could be either weft-wise stripes, running horizontally, or warp-wise stripes running vertically. In either case, they are evenly spaced, wide and narrow patterned stripes: a perfect design for some scarves or towels—perhaps even a hall runner.
Here’s another example: Our driveway is made of crushed limestone gravel. At first glance, all I can see is the work ahead of me pulling up all the weeds that have come up among the stones. It’s an unpleasant job that happens each spring. Then I look again and see beauty in front of me. Those sharp stones, which are hard to walk on with your bare feet, have wonderful natural white and gray tones. If I were to try to reproduce this scene as a fabric, I might turn to a boucle yarn to simulate that texture of the stones. There are some lovely cotton and cotton/linen boucle yarns out there that would do the job nicely. To represent the weeds, I could perhaps randomly add a few different greens of 8/2 cotton to the warp and maybe even add a little yellow for those dandelions. What started out as an unsightly driveway turned into a beautiful warp that I could weave up into some thirsty towels—perfect for gift-giving in the future.
Walking about my yard and looking at all the spring flowers coming into their own is like receiving a dose of medicine. It gets me away from the news broadcasts and helps me think positive thoughts. Last fall, I planted lots of tulip bulbs. Some fed a growing population of moles, some have been eaten by deer, and some have come to full maturity. I planted a mixed variety of bulbs so we have yellow, pink, red, and multicolored striped flowers all blooming together in a colorful mass. They’re breathtaking to say the least. I might never have thought to put all those colors together in a single woven piece, but I could. There is one variety that appears to be only red, but when you take a bit more time and look inside its petals, down near the base of the bloom, you will see that it is bright yellow with black stamens. It’s truly incredible to look at, and I am sure that sometime I must use this combination of colors for a project, but for now, I will take a picture of that tulip and save that thought for a later time.
Our yard is by no means like a golf course. It is a country setting with grass and weeds growing together to make a carpet of green. It seems there is always some unlikely plant taking hold and making its home out there in the lawn. On the way back from my meditative walk, I come upon an unusual patch of green weeds. I stop to take a closer look. The experience can best be described as a “Horton Hears a Who” moment. My glancing eyes nearly overlooked tiny flowers, seemingly miraculous flowers, but there, in that patch of green weeds, lives a group of small violet-shaped wildflowers. They are incredibly beautiful with many variations of the color purple. I can’t believe I nearly missed them. I now have a burning desire to reproduce those colors and their color proportions in some form of cloth. I don’t know what yet, but I will just let it percolate in my mind for a while. I will let my pictures inspire me for now. Perhaps I can find these beautiful flowers in a field guide to weeds and wildflowers and give these little beauties a name.
Well, I think it’s time to go back inside and do some project planning. I’ll get out my pad of graph paper, make some tea, and think about what I have just seen. I’ll get it all down on paper before I forget or get distracted by the latest evening news.
I have always been a bit of a social-distance practitioner. After all, it’s hard to pack up a 500-pound loom for an evening with friends. This mandatory reclusiveness will pass in time, but for now, we can all find inspiration in our surroundings and share our findings through our weaving.
Be well, stay curious, and happy weaving everyone.