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

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