Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Cold and Foggy

[We can't see the ridgetop today]

I've neglected blogging for a few days because the weaving needs to get done and invoiced in time to pay my San Francisco rent. With a whole week gone to the flu, money and time are ridiculously tight.

It drizzled off and on all day yesterday. With moisture in the air, the cold feels more intense. I carefully tested the wood stove last night and narrowly avoided a chimney fire. I guess the whole thing DOES need to be disassembled when it gets swept. I'll be bundled up to weave until I get that done.

Tomorrow's grocery run will be my first trip off the land since the treehouse trip. I think wool socks will be on my personal list.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Blue Haze, Golden Light

[Wolf Creek Sky, Yesterday and Today]

The sky started looking a little hazy yesterday. Today the smoke is so thick that the sun is giving a dim orange light. The word from the fire department is that we have nothing to worry about, the fire is in Tillamook. It's still ominous and a little disconcerting.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Apple Time

[Many hands make light work: apples being prepared for juicing]

Last night the community had a spontaneous realization: it's cool enough after dinner to hang out together and store food for winter. (I could have told them that!) The apple trees are producing like crazy, and it takes as many hands as we can muster to get them cleaned and juiced.

Since we don't spray our trees, almost every apple has a worm. They're no good for storing in the root cellar. We're just trying to put up enough cider that we can share it around the campfire at the big gathering in five weeks. Maybe next year we can find an environmentally friendly way to spray so we can store our fresh apples.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Happy Equinox!

[Chainsaw pieces]

We had a big setback on the wood cutting yesterday. Seacth was using the chainsaw when a bolt sheared off, causing the whole thing to fall apart in his hands. Luckily, nobody was hurt. We're taking it to the shop today, but don't expect to have it back for a few weeks. Everyone in the area needs chainsaw service this time of year.

A few of us still have sniffles, but stuff is moving nicely nonetheless. Last night we celebrated the Autumn equinox. It's the midpoint between the solstices. The sun is moving fastest across the horizon, meaning that the sunrise and sunset are changing rapidly. Every day is two minutes shorter than the previous.

Right now I'm drinking tea and listening to two Pygmy Owls calling back and forth across the valley. They sound just like a single note from a pipe organ: toot.....toot.....toot.

[Photo from iBird Explorer]

And I'm back up to speed with the weaving. Today I'll try to weave a little extra to start getting caught up.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Back in the Saddle

[The Peacock Labyrinth]

It's been a couple days since I thought I wasn't sick anymore. I was wrong. It was just moving from my head to my lungs. I finally had the strength and lung capacity yesterday to get back to the loom.

I have so much weaving to be done that I don't foresee doing much else for a few weeks. If you're in the area, drop by for a visit!

[Patchwork fisheye: my view from the loom]

A new crew of visitors has shown up in the last few days, bringing us up to 22 for dinner last night. Things are flowing smoothly with visitors integrating easily. It's very nice.

At the moment I can hear Seacth and Kinder cutting wood before the 10:00 chainsaw restriction. I can tell from the number of laughing voices that there's a visitor or two in the mix. They've been very helpful that way. With a few more dry weeks we just might get ourselves prepared for Winter.

The sky has been crystal clear all day and night for a few days. That means that the afternoons are hot and dry. The nights are bitter cold with patchy frost. With the dark moon, stargazing had been incredible.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Fashion Research

[The Path to Grandmother Maple]

My flu has passed and I feel mostly like myself again, so I'll write a little about the scrapbook hobby that hits me every year about this time. I like to keep up with the fashion world and collect clothing design ideas. Spring fashion, being debuted right now, is much more interesting to me than the Fall fashion that gets debuted in March.

In the last year, the tools for fashion scrapbooking have gotten very portable. Like many things, I find that I can now do it completely from my iPhone. This is thanks to two free services, and Evernote.

In the app, I can look at all the pieces in any major collection from any recent season. If there's a piece that catches my interest I use the iPhone's built-in screen grab feature and email the images to Evernote.

[Spring 2010 Ready-to-wear collection menu]

[Thumbnails from the Max Azria collection]

[A review of the collection]

[The screen capture that I will send to Evernote. I love liturgical garments and this looks to me like a Catholic scapular turned racy.]

Once the pieces are in Evernote, I'll go in and add tags to help me find them later. This year my interest tags are handwoven, shibori, tribal, liturgical, color, scarf, cloak, cape, vest, jacket.

[Photos neatly stored in Evernote, waiting for tags to help me find them later]

Evernote is amazing because of the pervasive nature of the information. The notes are stored on the server, accessible from the iPhone app or any web browser. The app lets you store an offline copy on your phone by marking it as a favorite. There are also native clients for Mac and Windows that will synchronize your notes with the computer, giving you a local copy there as well. Any edits made anywhere will automatically sync to your other locations. If you clip data or images from a website that disappears, you will always have the stuff you clipped. (This is very handy for using Etsy as a source of inspiration.)

When I sit down to design my first handwoven clothing line in a few months, I'll print the images from Evernote for my design boards. Of course it isn't my intent to replicate another designer's style, but it would be foolish if I didn't avail myself of the design ideas and organizational aids that are free and right in front of me.

One of my long term goals is to hook up with interior and fashion designers to design and weave custom cloth for them. In the meantime, I'll just watch fashion from afar. It's my version of a sport.

East Ridge Panorama

[Today's cloudy sunrise as seen from my tea bench]

Today is the third day of fevery sickness. In the distance I can hear another visitor coughing, too. Thankfully, it's just a few of us who are this bad. They brought some Robitussin from town so the symptoms are less than yesterday, but I still feel like someone beat me with a stick and stole my brain. The skies are grey, which seems just right to me.

Since I've started posting the Picture-A-Day on my blog I've been wishing I could create panoramas on my phone. Well, it turns out I can!

The app is called AutoStitch. It costs $0.99, and is dead simple to use. You take some overlapping pictures and click 'Stitch'. It analyzes the pictures, stitches them together and gives you the resulting panorama. Then you can crop it down to rectangular if you want.

[Choosing photos to make a panorama]

[Cropping out the jagged edges from the panorama stitching process]

Now I'll be able to show Wolf Creek's scenery in a way that's more like being here, wrapped in tree-covered hills. Enjoy!

As for weaving... It looks like one more day off will have me strong enough to do it. That 60" wide loom takes real strength to operate. I am going a little stir crazy and can't wait to get back to weaving.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Nice Day For Color Research

[Grandmother Maple is leading the pack with a dusting of gold leaves]

It's Fashion Season! I almost lost track of the calendar, being up here in the woods. Most of the "ready-to-wear" offerings are too "couture" looking. This is not the stuff that most people wear most of the time. The colors, on the other hand... Those will be trickling down to fashion at every level, and it's good to see what's coming down the pipeline. Remember the blue sweater scene from "The Devil Wears Prada"? It is totally true.

I still have a fever and am way too sick to think, but thankfully color research requires no thought whatsoever. It's just mechanical repetition:
- look for the season's new color guides
- enter the colors into Palettes, converting Pantone values to CMYK if necessary.

[Color trend projection from Pantone]

[Color recommendations, stored for future use. Notice how slowly the trends change? Compare Pantone Spring 2009 with Spring 2010...]

[Playing mix and match with recommended colors from various sources]

After I've got a good handle on the colors, I go to and peruse the collections. It's interesting to see just how closely most designers stick to the color trends. I won't remember much of what I'm seeing with my mushy brain today, but I can always go back again later.

[A casual jacket from Malandrino. Image from]

Thursday, September 17, 2009


[This tiny maple is giving a beautiful show]

I've been knocked down hard by a cold: fever, sinus explosion, absolute mental uselessness.

It's all part of the season, I guess...

Weaving? Ha! Just opening my eyes to look across the meadow feels like hard work. I'll just keep drinking my tea and weave extra in a few days.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Winter Prep Continues

[Will is on his way from the garden to the kitchen. Ripe apples are getting picked in the background]

The game for this season is to store food, secure our warm and dry Winter space, and protect our stuff from the impending rain. This morning I had a lovely chat with a caretaker before our land meeting and didn't write a real blog post. There's always tomorrow!

[The grapes are ripening...]

I delivered a batch of cloth yesterday, and have just a few more days of weaving before the white beam is completely empty. Then, it's time for 75 yards of beautiful gold cloth. Woohoo!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Supplemental Warp Loom-Controlled Shibori on Four Shafts

In loom-controlled shibori, the loom is used to control the placement of "pattern threads." These threads will be pulled tight, pleating the cloth and controlling the application of the dye. I chose to explore supplemental warp shibori because it scales much easier to a production workflow. With supplemental weft shibori, there are hundreds of pattern threads to pull and tie, greatly increasing the labor for each piece.

At the time that I did this project, I was using a loom with only four shafts. These shafts are used to control the 2/2 twill base pattern of the silk cloth. I have simulated another four shafts by using a piece of 2x4 with drywall screws in it and making my own heddles out of upholstery thread. This would never work for regular weaving because it's impossible to get even tension or a clean shed, and because the process of raising and lowering sets of threads is tedious. With too many criss-crossed makeshift heddles, tangling would be inevitable. This whole thing works fine for shibori because the actual threads are few, the pattern floats are long, and the tension doesn't matter as long as the pattern threads get stitched through the cloth correctly.

I couldn't take a good picture of the tensioning system for these extra threads. They were hung over a rod, each one weighted with its own 1/2 ounce fishing weight. This wouldn't work for long pieces, but worked fine for a single scarf.

[The "control board" for the supplemental threads with 1&2 down and 3&4 up.]

[Behind the real heddles you can see that the patterns "heddles" criss-cross each other]

[The "heddles" doing their work. Notice that the threads pass beneath the back beam, keeping the lower ones far beneath the real shed.]

[The pattern is being stitched into the cloth.]

[Removed from the loom and ironed to help make it pleat consistently]

[Hanging the pattern threads from a hook to help me pleat the cloth]

[Threads pulled tight, ready to dye.]

[Orange is done already, green is being allowed to soak in from beneath.]

[The finished cloth: organic, but regular. See the subtle chevrons?]

In the end, this process is fine for one-off pieces on a small loom, but completely unsuitable to production. On my production loom, however, there are enough shafts that some could be dedicated to pattern threads, making all of this fussing unnecessary. I can't wait 'til I've got a steady enough income that I could dedicate a month or two to bringing loom-controlled shibori up to a production scale.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Resource Management

[There's not much water in the creek nowadays]

This beautiful place has always had a difficult time managing its resources. Money, water, human energy: these are the big things that need to be managed well to keep this place running well.

I came here for a weaving retreat, to get caught up on my contract, to develop and produce a new line of products, and to demonstrate sustainable business for the community. Running any business means managing its resources. Crafts businesses have notoriously low profit margins, so careful management is essential.

I also intended to spend my time here looking for a niche within the community that would let me stay here longterm and be of service to this place. Well, I think I've found it. We need someone to help the community to better manage our resources. And if I bring paying work with me, I'm sure nobody will complain. Well, pretty sure...

The weaving is chugging along. I'll be able to send 24 shawls to tomorrow. It's not the 48 I was hoping for, but the land work I did instead was worthwhile. There aren't many more days before the rains arrive.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Playing Bridge

Today we had an impromptu work party. The weather was suddenly extremely hot and dry - perfect for sealing the bridge to protect that important asset. I noticed that our current group of visitors is very motivated to help, so I thought I'd initiate the project and convince others to do most of the actual work a la Huckleberry Finn. Piwacket was on board for the same idea.

[Piwacket hauling tools and supplies]

[The bridge before: dry and filthy]

The first step is laborious and tedious. We rake and sweep the surface, dig out debris from between all the decking, rake and sweep some more. This goes on for a few hours until the bridge is clean enough to seal all the decking tops and sides.

[A few hours later: dry and clean]

Then we spread a giant tarp to keep waterseal from dripping into the creek. The wood is so dry that not much is dripping through, but there's almost no flow in the creek, either.

[Creek-protecting tarp]

[Piwacket and Paul apply the seal]

[Oops. The wood is extra thirsty!]

In the end, we only attracted one visitor to help, so it was Piwacket, Paul and me getting it all done. Others dropped in for a few minutes here and there, but we ran out of waterseal anyhow. Now it's time to quickly balance budgets and get another can. Apparently, it has been a few years and the wood is just drinking the stuff. It's cheaper to maintain than to replace!

I got to the weaving studio quite late and the temperature quickly passed 100, sending me away from the loom and down the hill to make a dish for our first (in recent memory) Wolf Creek greater community potluck.

The food was fantastic. I can still hear people laughing as I write these words from my cabin on the way to sleep.

[Visitors and guests from town enjoying food in the meadow at sunset]

Ideal Visitors

[The lily pond in the middle of our garden]

It's always nice when people arrive who already know how to live in community. Two days ago a group stopped by on their way from Burning Man. They have made their integration into this place effortless.

Last night I spent too long in the weaving studio and was running short on time to get dinner finished. (We had a telephone meeting after dinner, so time was an issue.) The next thing I knew, the kitchen was swarming with visitors peeling, chopping, and cooking. Dinner was gorgeous and the only ingredients we didn't grow were eggs, flour and olive oil. After dinner we swarmed the kitchen again to clean it. Amazing!

I trapsed off to bed, hearing murmurs of cinnamon rolls. I didn't give it much thought, although I'd love a fresh cinnamon roll with my tea!

Well, I got up this morning to find a few things. The kitchen was spotless. The dishes were even dried and put away. Then I saw the sheet that cinnamon rolls were baked on, but no rolls themselves. "Oh, well," I thought. And then my eye caught the other sheet of unbaked rolls in the fridge. Sweet!

So I'm drinking my tea, watching the sun rise above the ridge, and eating a very hot cinnamon roll. It's a glorious morning thanks to some glorious visitors.

On the way down the hill today I saw three Northern Flickers in the trees of the meadow.
[Image from the iBird Explorer app]

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Swedish Bobbin Winder Repair

Last week I broke my bobbin winder. After 22 million revolutions in 5 months, the steel shaft just snapped. I think it was my fault because it had been off-center and chattering all along. I never thought that this little amount of vibration would be enough to snap the shaft.

[See the break in the shaft?]

Annie recommended that I mount the shaft in a thrift store drill just to get me through the week. It seemed like a good idea, and besides I had never taken apart this piece of equipment so I really had no idea how it works. I'll just zip through the photos so you can see how the disassembly is done.

[Unscrewing the pin that holds the brass cup in place]

[Pulling the bearing cup and broken shaft end out]

[Tapping loose the guard that keeps threads out of the mechanism]

[The guard slides off the shaft]

[Remove the screw that holds the lock washer in place]

[And now it slides off, releasing the main gear and crank]

At this point I puzzled and puzzled over how that shaft was put in place and how I could remove it. I've concluded that the steel shaft is cast in place. The part that passes through the cast iron is slightly conical. After casting it could be tapped loose because of its shape. This would trap it in place and give it just the tiniest amount of space to rotate. The only way to remove it would be to cut it off, so I headed down the hill to the tool shed where there's a vice mounted on a work bench.

[Winder body clamped into a vice]

[Using a hacksaw to cut off the shaft]

[Ta-dah! It's free!]

[Shaft mounted into a drill to get me through the week]

Conclusion: there is no way to repair a swedish bobbin winder to replace a broken shaft. Once the shaft is cut out, it cannot be put back. A new one cannot be inserted. If your shaft breaks, you have a pile of spare parts that you can use if you break anything BUT the shaft.

Using a drill to wind bobbins is PAINFULLY slow. 20 minutes worth of winding will easily take 90 minutes. And it's loud. Having a spare winder on hand will prevent you from spending half of your week sitting with earplugs in while you wait for a hand drill to wind your bobbins.