SWG: Velvet Weaving with Dr. Barbara Setsu Pickett

Today has been one of “those days.”  For example, I just found out that the form to email me on the Contact page was going to the wrong address (I’ve fixed it now) and that there are about 290 emails and queries waiting for a response.  Argh!

So if you used that form and didn’t get a response, I’m terribly sorry.  It’s one of those hard-to-detect “hands up everyone who’s not here” kind of website bugs.  I am able to wander through the back-log, they were all saved on the server, thankfully.  But all of a sudden getting 290 emails…this may take a while to work through.

So today, not my fave.  Let’s travel back in time to last Thursday.  That was great.

This past Thursday was the Seattle Weaver’s Guild September meeting.  We have two hour-long presentations each meeting, one before lunch and one after.  This week the speaker was Dr. Barbara Setsu Pickett, a professor of fiberarts at the University of Oregon.

Dr. Barbara Setsu Pickett

Dr. Pickett has spent the past twenty years researching and weaving velvet.  She’s traveled all over the world, studying with master velvet weavers from a host of traditions, and then come home to build the custom gear needed to build velvet in her studio.

If you’re not familiar with velvet weaving. It’s a technique that uses two warps, one that forms the ground cloth, and another that’s pulled up between the ground-cloth picks to form pile loops.  You insert wires or channels into these pile loops and continue to weave until you have several rows of pile.  And then, like a magician performing a trick where you pull the tablecloth and leave the dishes standing, you slice open the tops of the first row of pile loops and–if all has been set up correctly–the cut pile warp does not pull out.

Japanese Velvet Weaving

There are macro-velvets that you can weave with just two warp beams; this produces an edge-to-edge velvet.

And then there are figured velvets (places of velvet and voids) where each pile has to be wound on its own little warp beam.

figured velvet

The loom set up to weave this involves hundreds of individually weighted bobbins.  It looks like a thousand trained spiders on roller skates are following your loom.  It’s simply mind-boggling, and should never be attempted by anyone with a cat, small children, or random breezes in their studio.

During the first hour-long presentation, Dr Pickett showed pictures of velvet weavers from all over the world, and displayed actual fabric samples of the different velvet traditions.  The basic problems of how to handle the differential take-up in the pile warp, how to tension things, and how to cut without destroying everything were solved in different locales in a variety of intriguing and mind-boggling ways.

During the second half-hour, Dr. Pickett explained how to set up something like this in for your own loom.  She made it sound, if not easy, at least possible.

And I’m finding myself terribly, terribly tempted.

Anyone know where I can buy 400 sewing-machine bobbins, wholesale?


And as a parting happy thing from Thursday, here is Lynn who took my “Woven Shibori on the Rigid-Heddle Loom” class at Weaving Works.  The only down side to this class is that we spend one day weaving the fabric, another tying and dyeing, and then the students take home what look like large black snakes of fabric to wait for them to dry and then cut open to reveal the pattern within…and I usually don’t get to see the finished results!  So kudos  to Lynn for her lovely scarf, and a big thank-you for bringing it back to show me how it turned out.  It and your lovely smile made my day.

Woven shibori from class

Franklin Habit Photography Class

Tonight I headed out to The Fiber Gallery to take a “Photographing Your Fiber” class with Franklin Habit: cartoonist, blogger, knit designer, professional photographer, general all-around talented person, etc.

It was a basic photography class with an emphasis on how to shoot flattering portraits of fiber stuff, both on and off people.  I came armed with a list of questions:

1) How do you shoot something that sparkles so the sparkles actually show up?

I once spent six hours on a snowy day trying my darnest to get the sparkles on Kate’s Subdued Glitz Picnic Cloth to show up.  I never could get the photos to quite match what I saw.  I actually have a theory now that the human brain is so in love with sparkly things that it magnifies them, and so what you see when you look at a sparkly thing, is not reality.  I think it’s like the moon illusion.

2) How do you pose fabric (essentially a long rectangle) in a way that makes it interesting and engaging??

3) How do you light an iridescent fabric for best effect?

Franklin gave me some ideas to try for all of these, things like playing with fill lights, depth of field, and star filters (which, he assures me, can be used in a non-cheesy way.)

The class was good, the instructor charming, the yarn store tempting.  I’d not been in The Fiber Gallerybefore and kept being distracted by pretty yarns all over the place.  (I’m now seriously contemplating joining their first-ever store-sponsored knit-a-long.)

At the end of class, one of the students asked if she could take a picture of Franklin in his Utilikilt (the product of a cool clothing company, based in Seattle).  And it turned into an impromptu photoshoot where Franklin, who’d just ordered a class full of students to take pictures early and often to hone their skills, suddenly had every camera in the room pointed at him.  He laughed off the paparazzi moment.

At the top of this post is the photo of him that I snapped at the beginning of the class.  After class a couple of us joked about how ironic it would be to blog about a photography class, and then post a less-than-perfect photo of the teacher.  So I want to repeat that I snapped this at the beginning of class, before all the learning happened, using the less-than-ideal camera on my cell phone.

Because…the one SNAFU I had with the class was that I’d dutifully brought my SLR, and things to photograph, but had cunningly left the memory card from my camera at home.  (Ironically, I’d brought extra batteries.  I’d left the house feeling chuffed about that.) Franklin saved my bacon for the hands-on portion of the class by letting me borrow his CF card.

After class I deleted every picture I’d taken during the hands-on exercises before I returned the card.  It drove home the point with digital photography there’s no reason not to play and take a lot of test shots: pixels are free.

So while I didn’t come away with any fabulous shots of the samples I’d taken, I came away with knowledge, and directions for further exploration.

A good class.


Afterwards, I bought a copy of Franklin’s excellent book of cartoons and humorous essays, “It Itches.”, and got in line to get my copy autographed.

It Itches

When I told him how to spell my first name, he said, “You know, there’s a podcaster with that name.”  I agreed that was true.  I must have had a glint in my eye because then he said, “Are you Syne Mitchell?”  I confessed that I was and he laughed and wrote a nice note when he autographed the book.

A surreal moment: Franklin Habit has listened to WeaveCast?  Really?

It was all I could do not to look around for a hidden camera.

Random on a Friday: LEDs, Spindle Single Weaving, S’mores

Wednesday was a big day for me, with the announcement about WeaveZine’s Evolution and all.  I’ve been doing a lot of post-announcement communication since then, answering questions, and talking to some very cool people about projects.  Two days in, and I’ve got a full slate of awesomeness to work on.  Life is good.

On the other hand, in Kai’s first week of school, all the kidlets brought in all the germs they’d collected over the summer and passed them around, and now we’re all sick.  Not gut-churning sick, just pooky, wanna stare at TV and drink tea sick.

Which is my way of explaining that is to going to be one of those “collection of random musings” blog posts.

First of all, I’d like to say that although the lamp from last post was an example of LED mis-use, I’m not anti-LED at all.  In fact, quite the opposite.  And at the grocery store I found the best, highest, use of LEDs ever.

Blinking toothbrushes

Blinking toothbrushes.  The concept is brilliant: you bang them on the counter and they blink for a full minute, acting as an uber-cool timer to keep your kid brushing.  It turns it from a “mom says I have to keep brushing” fight into a “Wow, the toothbrush is still blinking, gotta keep brushing!  Look at my uvula glow!” experience.  Brilliant in so many ways.  (And yes, in case you’re wondering. One of the toothbrushes ended up being mine.)

I’ve started warping up my second handspun-singles project.  This time I’m using singles that I spun on my Jenkins Turkish Delight spindle.  This thing has been my near-constant companion since I bought it at the first Sock Summit.  It’s that cool.

So far, I have to say spindle-spun singles have it all over wheel spun.  They’re much tighter, and having to be strong enough to support the weight of the spindle, they’ve been “gravity tested” to a minimum strength.

The turkish spindle creates center-pull balls (aka: yarn turtles) that you can use immediately, without having to unwind them off the spindle first.  (If you’ve not used a turkish spindle before, they actually come apart like a magic trick and you can slip the ball right off.  I’m convinced the turkish is the ultimate geek’s spindle, it’s so clever.)

So here’s the begining of winding the warp.  Ignore the fact that the ball of yarn looks like a hideous snarl, it actually spooled off flawlessly.

beginning to warp


The yarn for this has an interesting story.  It’s all spun from free samples I recieved at GGFI.  GGFI is a fiber-palooza and you get handed lots of wee samples of gorgeous and soft fibers to spin in tiny cellophone baggies.  I didn’t want to end up with wee samples fossilized in my stash, to be uncovered a decade later and puzzled over, so I set about spinning them while I was at GGFI, with the intention to weave a “GGFI” scarf when I got home.  (The scarf is intended as a present for a special and deserving person, but I’m not telling who…though you might know her.)  I finished the last sample up in the airport, and here it is, my GGFI-freebie warp!  What’s cool is that I had exactly enough for a scarf, a 2-1/2 yard  warp, about ten inches wide.

This yarn is thin, so I’ll be setting it at 24 epi, using two 12-dent heddles.

Below is one of the reasons that a rigid heddle loom is excellent for handspun: the direct-peg method of warping.  These singles have a lot of energy and twist.  If I tried to warp them on a board and then move them to a loom, it’d be a crazy-making tangle nightmare.  But see how the direct-peg method keeps all the threads under tension and untangled as you measure the warp, nifty huh?

direct-peg warping


(Though, really, you could direct-peg warp on a more traditional loom as well.  I keep meaning to try it on my Baby Wolf.)

When I take the warp off the peg I insert my wrist into the loop that went over the peg, and below is an illustration of why.  See how much energy is in the singles?  If I dropped that, the warp would be done.  Over.  Compost.  Keeping my wrist in, I can always re-tension the warp and get it back to straight and untangled.

warp on the wrist


I’ve currently got the slots and holes in the first 12-dent heddle threaded, tomorrow I’ll work at putting the second heddle on.  (Then I’ll take a picture of how to tension a broken warp thread, but really, it’s nothing special.  It consists of grabbing something heavy, wrapping the thread around it, putting the heavy thing on a table and pushing it away until the tension’s right.)

Other randomness…today was the manditory weekly “cheat day” of my diet.  Kai and I decided to celebrate with s’mores.  Here’s my secret weapon of s’more-ness.

Secret weapon of s'moreness


And here is just about the damn most perfect s’more ever.

damn most perfect s'more

I ate it and it was perfect and lovely and…I had an epiphany.  When you eat something that perfect, it’s enough.  To have a second s’more would have made me more full, but it wouldn’t have given as much pleasure as the first.  So…I stopped at one.  On my cheat day, when I could have had as many as I wanted.  But I only wanted one.  I think that was the lesson I was supposed to learn.

Wonder if that works with yarn-buying, too?

Finished Handspun Singles Fabric

Here’s the cloth woven of handspun singles off the loom.

Weaving it was not too hard.  I had about 3-4 broken warp threads throughout the whole three yards, which I attribute to several factors:

    1. Not enough twist.  I spun this yarn on my spinning wheel with a Woolee Winder attachment.  While I dearly love how the WW automates the process of winding on, it does tend to pull in the fiber, so when I spin with it, the yarn on the bobbin has less twist than if I’d spun it without the WW, or spun it on a drop spindle.  In fact, that’s my next project in this exploration, to try weaving with spindle-spun yarn.  Yarn spun on a spindle tends to be less forgiving.  If you don’t put enough twist in, the spindle hits the floor.


    1. Hairy yarn.  The laceweight was a bit on the hairy side, and the coarser Shetland fibers reached out of the yarn and grabbed their neighbors, increasing friction to the point where it damaged the neighboring yarns.  I think I’d fix this by using smoother singles or sizing the warp before putting it on the loom.


    1. Weighting broken warp threads does not work with singles.  You know how you normally repair a broken warp thread, by cutting a replacement and then weighting it off the back of the loom?  You know what happens when you do this with an energized single?  That’s right, the yarn untwists over time and “plop!” that weighted replacement thread is on the ground.  I’m proud to say that I only had to do this twice before I figured it out and started tensioning my replacement threads with friction instead of gravity.


  1. Trying too hard not to break warp threads.  This one surprised me.  When I was weaving slowing and oh-so-carefully so as to put the least amount of strain on the warp, I broke threads left and right.  When I cranked up the tension and started weaving with my normal fast rhythm, going so fast that I even forgot the sizing crutch of adding hair spray, I stopped breaking warp threads.  Weird, huh?  I attribute this to one of two things, either weaving with rhythm and speed distributes the strain more evenly than weaving slowly and carefully or…yarn smells fear.


close-up of the cloth

What went right with the cloth?

It wasn’t as hard to weave as I’d thought.  After I got into the swing of things and stopped breaking warp threads it was just another weaving project.

I love, love, love the granola goodness of this cloth.  Weaving with handspun gives a life to the fabric that you just can’t get with commercially milled yarns.  The subtle irregularities make it textured and inviting.  I loosened the tension to get an inkling of the handle it might have after washing and it was soft and textured, the fabric equivalent of oatmeal cookies warm and fresh from the oven.

My husband covets this cloth.  One of my hopes for this fabric was that the muted colors would appeal to a male sensibility.  It worked!  Eric has already made noises about some of the things I could make for him out of this.  He says blanket, I’m thinking hat.


Here I’ve cut a whack of sample fabric off the end to test-drive wet finishing three different ways as Daryl Lancaster describes in The Weaver Sews: What to Weave, Part 2.
samples in the making

I’m still hoping that this fabric crumples up and does interesting things in the wash.


Here are the thrums from the project.  There’s a 1-inch grid beneath the pile.  As you can see, the waste is minimal.  And here I wasn’t even trying to minimize loom waste.  If I had, I would have lashed on or used Nadine Sanders’ shoestring warping method.

handspun thrums

I’ve got a cunning plan for these, which will be the topic of a future post.

Next warp, I’ll try weaving with spindle spun yarn and see how that fabric compares to this.


As a last thought.  Today while I was looking in the lighting department of Fred Meyers for a replacement bulb, I found this:

Strange lighting

I haven’t yet figured out whether this is (a) proof that there are actually places where LEDs should not go, (b) the taxidermied corpse of a muppet, or (c) rather cool.  What do you think?

Weaving Handspun Singles on a Rigid Heddle Loom

My current weaving adventure is weaving fine handspun singles on a rigid heddle loom.

I’ve long advocated the rigid heddle loom for handspun because the plastic heddle is gentle on the threads and you have less loom waste than a floor or table loom.  (With the right warping techniques, I can get loom waste on my RH down to about six inches.)

While I was down at GGFI, a couple of folks asked if I taught a class in weaving with handspun on the RH loom.  And I haven’t thus far, but it sounds like fun, doesn’t it?

So I decided to start playing around and weaving samples.  And being the type of person I am, started at the deep end of the pool: lace-weight singles.  You know, that yarn that some folks will tell you “Cannot ever be used for warp.  No way.  Your loom would explode.”

The yarn was spun from lovely 80% shetland/20% alpaca roving that was donated by Franna of EverRanch Farmfor use in the spinning demos at the Seattle Green Festival.  I had some left over after the event, and it was so lovely to spin that I couldn’t stop myself, and ended up with a pile of gorgeous singles in a variety of natural colorways.

colored wefts

Note: I enjoy buying from local shepherds, it supports cottage industry and local economies, is greener for the earth because products don’t have to be shipped far, and can bring you specialty products you can’t find elsewhere.  But I’ll confess, the real reason: you get to know the names of the fiber animals involved. I have a sentimental warm fuzzy from knowing that this fabric is being woven in the Espresso-Asa-Suzie-Jasper-Blaze colorway.  Having owned sheep, I can imagine these shetlands and alpacas muching away on their cud, growing fiber for me.

I spun the  yarn fine, about 32 wraps per inch, ‘Z’ twist, semi-worsted, with lots of twist.

(Question: when I’m figuring out wpi, I’m always confused about how much tension to put on the yarn when wrapping, how much to squish the wraps on the ruler.  Any advice from the experienced spinners here?)

fine single

So far, the weaving is going fairly well.  It’s a bit of a hairy yarn, and I probably should have sized it before warping, but I’ve tamed the frizz with a bit of hair spray (Note: let the hair spray DRY before you start weaving again.)

The yarn is sett at 12 ends per inch, so I’m weaving a fairly gauzy cloth.  Which given the hairness of the yarn, is a blessing.  I’m hoping it will do fun and crinkly things off the loom.

Or my loom could explode.  I’ve never woven with fine handspun singles before, you never know…

(I’m still planning to share my new vision for WeaveZine on September 15th, I just couldn’t wait until then to share this bit of adventure with you.)

What I Did Over the Summer (2010)

Kai and Eric just walked out the door, to go to school and work.  It’s my first day of fall, that moment when a work-at-home mom is finally alone in the house, with time to think and reflect and get things done.  It’s a sense of relief, tinged with a bit of regret.  Like the scent of new fallen leaves or the feel of mist on your skin.

This summer I’ve done a lot of things (there’s a list below) but always in the back of my mind was a thought about WeaveZine, and ways to make it better, more rewarding for both readers and contributors, and how to create a business that’s in line with my talents and values.

I’m going to talk about what I’ve come up with on September 15th, but before that, I’d like to pay homage to summer.  Because this has been one wild and crazy one, with ups and downs aplenty.

What I did over summer vacation:

Taught at John C Campbell

It was a week-long class with fabulous students.  This was the first time I’d had a class where over half the people were intermediate to advanced rigid-heddle weavers, so to keep them challenged I changed the curriculum on the fly and added extra optional material.  It was a great group of people to hang out with, and I really enjoyed getting to know these eleven wonderful women (and Pam, the resident weaver.)

John C Campbell Class of 2010

Moved everything I own

As part of a major home improvement project—which was extremely bloggable, but which my husband asked me not to blog about—I packed up and moved every single thing I own.  Which led me to realize that I (a) own a lot of books and fiber and (b) have some awesome in-town friends.  This project was supposed to be over in a month or so, but continues to drag on in a Sisyphian manner.  The upside (besides the massive stash rotation) is that I now have a much improved weaving studio, with space for all my looms and a sewing area, and a spinning area.  There’s also room for a real-live desk, recording gear, photography equipment, and a professional-grade color laser printer (more about that later.)

Lots of stuff

Taught at Weaving Works

I feel fortunate to have a local weaving store, that I can run to and buy heddles if I’m running short for a project.  I’m even more fortunate in that they let me teach there from time-to-time.  This time around it was a class on how to weave woven shibori on a rigid-heddle loom.  It was the first time that I’ve taught this class and had a majority of the students choose the optional suggestion to “warp with bright colors instead of the traditional white” and some of the scarves were so lovely that it was all I could do not to run away with them.  One especially memorable one was eye-tearing red on the loom.  After dyeing it looked like hot lava, with peeks of red between organic rivulets of black.

Woven Shibori Class


Taught at The Golden Gate Fiber Institute (GGFI)

I have to confess, when Morgaine of Carolina Homespun called me up and asked me to teach at GGFI, my first thought was, “What is that?”  GGFI is a small, unpretentious event held at a YMCA campground near San Francisco.  And although the skies were dreary (in August) and I spent most of the time freezing my butt off (in August) it was one of the best events I’ve ever attended.  Morgaine and Judith MacKenzie, the directors, have the goal of creating a welcoming fiber community, and they pulled it off beautifully.  For a week, I lived the life of a wandering fiber nomad with a tribe of wonderful, funny, inspiring women.  That alone would have made it worth the trip.  Add in instructors like Abby Franquemont, Sarah Anderson, Velma Root, Cat Bordhi, Judith MacKenzie, Sharon Costello, and (I’m almost embarrassed to say it) me, and it was fiber heaven.  My only regret is that I couldn’t clone myself and take all the classes as well.

Teaching at GGFI


Spent a week with my Granny Mann

I am the crazy crafty one in my family.  The one who has an insatiable curiosity, who wants to learn how to do or make everything by hand.  The one who thinks spending a day to reweave an old frame chair is better than buying a new one from Walmart (and more fun besides).  My mom sews a bit, my sister paints, Eric does a bit of polymer clay, but I’m the only omnivorous crafter who’s made it the sole and center of her life.  Except for my Granny Mann, who is a crafter like me.  And while you’d think that would have made us fast friends for life, familial circumstances have always kept us apart.  I am the daughter of the wrong father, and as such was never really welcome in her household.  (It actually goes further than that: I am the daughter of the wrong father, as is my mom, as is Granny Mann herself.  Long story, southern family, some scandals involved.)  But Granny Mann recently had two heart attacks and the doctors have no idea why she is even still alive, so the whole family (from whichever father) has been pulling together to visit her in week-long shifts, take care of her, and spend time with her while we could.

Enter the blessing of senile dementia.  We had the best week!  It was the week I’d always wanted to have with her.  My Granny Mann has always had the verve and energy of about ten people, and while I expected to find a lady on death’s door, she was up and doing and it was all I could do to keep her from going outside in 96-degree weather to trim the box wood hedges in front of her house.  And when the lawn crew came, she puckishly eyed their 10-foot long gasoline-powered hedge trimmers and mused, “I’ve got to get me one of those, then I could trim the big hedge myself.”  And I know from being on the other side of that tone of voice—she was not kidding!  We baked, she taught me cross-stitch, we finished up sewing projects that she’d wanted to get to for five years, we watched the birds together, and ate a plethora of healthy meals.  What made it possible, I believe, was that the whole time, she had no clear idea of who I was.  She knew I was family, and that I loved her (and she loved me) but kept trying to figure out around the edges who I was.  That week I was: her daughter, a family friend, her granddaughter (of the daughter of the right father this time), a paid helper, and (because I kept talking about Eric and my son) “Syne Ericson.”  Instead of making me sad, it was a gift.  I had to wait 40 years, and she had to forget who I was, but I finally had the visit with my granny—the lady most like me in the family—that I always wanted.

Granny Mann and her sewing project

Visited nearly all the rest of my family, too

This was a big summer for family.  Eric’s sister and niece stayed with us for four days, my Dad and his girlfriend came for a few days (and let Kai and I have turns flying my Dad’s little Cessna 170 airplane—think VW bug with wings—twas fun!), Eric’s parents came for a visit, as did my friend from Poland, Jolanta (mother of the young weaving enthusiast Lucas), my mother came for several days to watch Kai and give Eric and I that rare blessed thing for parents “the overnight away trip.”  Then we visited Eric’s parents in Montana.  Lest you think this sort of thing goes on all the time, that I just happen to have a large local extended family, the nearest visitor came from 1500 miles away, and the farthest from 5000 miles away, meaning this summer approximately 37,500 person-miles were traveled (one-way!) in order to accomplish this unprecedented “summer of visitors.”  It was wonderful, wild, and non-stop: one day I literally dropped off one set of visitors at one airport—and before I returned home—went to the other airport to pick up the next set.

Kai in airplane

Spent Kai’s first summer vacation with him

This past year Kai completed first grade, a feat that earned him three months off.  And for the first time in his short life, he could appreciate the freedom and possibilities of that time.  Three months of wandering in the woods, of trying new things, of building stuff, of staying up late, of spending time with your parents, and the rest of your family, too.  And I wanted to be able to share that with him, to get into adventures with him while he was still young enough to want me there.  One of the highlights of the summer was teaching him to ride a bike.  Riding a bike is an act of faith: in yourself, in the bike, in physics itself.  We started off with me holding onto his seat and running alongside him, keeping him upright.  He wasn’t getting it.  Then, among all the frustration of trying and failing and falling, I turned to him and said, “You like going fast, right?  Well Mama can’t run any faster than we’re going now.  If you want to go faster, you’re going to have to learn how to do this on your own.”  He gave me a serious look, then without saying another word, he pushed off and started pedaling like mad.  I stayed where I was, holding my breath as he rode solo for the first time, when he was 150 feet away (and still going) I pumped my fists in the air and whooped.  It was a poignant moment for me as a mother.    I was proud, and jubilant, and…it was one more way in which my child no longer needed me.  It’s a funny thing, parenting, your goal is to teach your children how to live without you…and you hope you make enough memories in the process.

Published Laverne Waddington’s Book: Andean Pebble Weave

I took a hiatus from publishing WeaveZine and WeaveCast this summer—for all the reasons listed above—but one new point of business started up, and is continuing today.  I worked with Laverne to publish her book: Andean Pebble Weave.  Figuring out how to publish and distribute a book was more work than I imagined: I had to integrate a robust and secure shopping cart on the site, learn about SSL certificates, learn how to deliver eBooks automatically from a website, how to accept both credit card and Paypal payments, and then…how to publish a high-quality, print-on-demand, paper edition! This involved more research and planning, testing equipment, inks, and papers, learning about ISBNs and barcodes, etc.

It was a big effort, especially with everything else going on this summer, but it was rewarding to work with Laverne to help bring to market a niche specialty book, one that big main-stream publishers, with their economies of scale, couldn’t afford to publish.  And to do it in a way that honors the author’s vision and pays them what they’re worth; it felt good.  Really good.

Laverne's book

Lost 45 pounds

You might think “well of course, she did, with all that running around.”  But seriously, this took effort.  It was a summer-long project that required me to think about food and my relationship to it at every meal.  I joined a program with scheduled weigh-ins and packaged foods, and all that; something I’d mocked before.  Here’s why: because I didn’t have any success just “trying to eat healthy.”  For the past decade I’d watched the scale slowly creep up.  I’d watched people I loved, relatives and family friends lose mobility because they were carrying too much weight.  Seeing active, vital people needing to lean on a shopping cart to walk around a grocery store saddened me.  I didn’t want that to be my fate when I was in my 60s.  As a 40-year-old woman, getting healthy didn’t seem to be something I could put off any longer.

After eleven weeks of effort, I’ve reached my goal weight.  As a side benefit, my allergies (which a couple of years ago had been nearly crippling in the summer) are almost gone, and the aches and pains in my knees and joints cleared up.  My allergist tells me that sugar creates inflammation in the body, and that by cutting it out of my diet she’s not surprised that my allergy symptoms cleared up.  (Gee, wish she’d told me that two years ago, but I digress…)

I haven’t noticed an uptick in my energy levels (though I have fewer blah days) but my friend Jenni swears that she notices a big difference, that I’m all bouncy and stuff.  She kinda rolled her eyes when she said this, which makes me believe her.

Because of the communal dining at GGFI, people could see I was eating differently and asked questions.  One question that seems most relevant to me as I move into the maintenance phase of the diet is: “Do you think you’ll be able to keep the weight off?”

I don’t know.  I hope so.  This is something I’ve never done before.  It’s a new adventure and a bit weird.  I keep looking in the mirror and wondering who the skinny woman looking back is.  With the angular planes of my face emerging, I look a bit more Scottish, more like my Granny Mann, actually.

Planes of my face

It’s been a summer of many changes: joy mixed with sadness.  If I had to sum it up in one word: poignant.

I’m looking forward to fall.  It’s my favorite season; I love the crisp hint of promise in the air.  My brain clicks over faster when the temperature falls; perhaps it’s the habit of decades of school and college; perhaps it goes deeper, the cycle of nature and the rush to harvest and prepare for winter.  Fall feels like a call to action: summer is over, and now to work!

Taking a hiatus from the site was useful; it’s given me perspective and a renewed sense of purpose about what I want to accomplish in the weaving world, and how to do that in a way that’s in line with my talents and values.

More to follow…September 15th