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Friday, June 22, 2018

Life tidbits

Physical training this morning was just fun. Greg, my trainer, is a serious young fellow. All we have in common, for chit-chat while I follow instructions, are my understanding of his month old fatherhood stint, and his vast repertoire of everything sports. Nora Grace still holds them sleep deprived, but that’s the price to be paid, so we moved into his comfort zone, sports.

I’m always curious for his take on LeBron James. As Shacq said, James should quit chasing rings and just play it out as the greatest player ever. We all know Shacq didn’t get into or out of that Buick gracefully, but when he sat behind the wheel and said it wasn’t your daddy’s Buick any more, we know he said the truth.  
Apparently the Cleveland Cavaliers drafted someone, and Greg started in on should the Cavs make a trade, or have LeBron tripping over the kid. I mentioned Shacq’s opinion, and training stopped. Greg knows my knowledge of basketball can be balanced on a finger. “You know who Shacq is?” Greg, he is way too easy on the eyes, and pleasantly fluffy. Of course I know Shacquile O’Neal.

After lunch we went grocery shopping. Little Miss Cook’s had a tough week. Last Friday, home from South Carolina, her shopping basket consisted primarily of snacks for Laura. I was curious, as I put the debit card into the slot, but it’s not my budget and not my job. It’s been a week of interesting meals from the child who never says “Uncle”.  Nor do her siblings or sires, you may recall, but not with Laura’s finesse. She concocted edible meals from an empty refrigerator. Fortunately for her, the freezer and the pantry still yielded, meagerly.

I wandered off in the grocery store, and found tomatillos. It’s been twenty or more years. I put some in a bag. At $1.49 a pound, it couldn’t be that big a mistake. Laura googled her way to reducing a couple of them to a salsa that she added to alfredo and served over her old standby, noodles. Pretty good. I think there will be more in the future.

Yesterday I succeeded, after innumerable false starts, to drag Overdrive to Windows 10, and download two books. I picked Charlotte’s Web and Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride. 

As I’ve occasionally mentioned, I remember essentially nothing of every book I’ve ever read. I would have guessed with a straight face that a spider was involved in the former. Like the fifty percent chance of getting a True/False right. Rob Reiner wrote the intro to Inconceivable Tales, which I read on the library’s web page.  I think this book may be as good as the movie.

And last, my pastime of admiring my garden, and Laura’s contribution to the summertime art class she leads for library kids ("The Library Rocks"!). Oh, yes, all that rain in the west made it across to Ohio. I’ll put money on an inch in the rain gauge tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Summer rash

Windows 10 could really bother me. No checkbook; no problem. A blogger friend explained to me, simply be sure I had enough money in the bank before I spent any more. As an accountant in one of my former lives, I've found that to be all I really need.

The DNA site 23andMe has a service of matching relatives, and frequently sends me lists of new cousin matches. People who care to be contacted provide an email . I saw it as the perfect way to find some cousins from the Irish branch of the family that disowned my father. (That quest to see why my Presbyterian Irish grandfather married my Catholic Irish grandmother.)

This would be so simple to identify cousins, using the family tree I built through Another false trail, it turns out. Ancestry has no record, as it was jobbed out to a company called Family Tree Maker, when I did it in 2012. Family Tree Maker sells a plethora of programs to update the files on my computer to the current version, but will not answer my emails about what I need. They have no phone number.

And finally, I need to download new books for my MP3 player. But, now I have Windows 10. It recognizes my SanDisk, but I'll be damned if I can locate the correct version of Overdrive, to get the books I borrowed from the library. I can only find the version that plays the books on the computer, and a cryptic note to find a special version that actually transfers the files using Windows 10. My library tells Annie comes in after noon tomorrow, and is the only person there who can help me. The joys of small towns!

On the other hand, when Laura and I met in the kitchen this morning, we decided we needed a selfie before the day ended. And one of our card playing friends took the picture for us, this afternoon.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Broadcast to the wind

This is a collection of my thoughts on being an artisan. For all that I smiled and said “Thank you!” when customers raved about our ‘art,’ I’ve never lost track of Thoreau’s definition. Remember him, the fellow who wore his whiskers under his chin?

The Artist is he who detects and applies the law from observation of the works of Genius, whether of man or nature. The Artisan is he who merely applies the rules which others have detected. There has been no man of pure Genius; as there has been none wholly destitute of Genius.

I added the italics. I didn’t invent looms, thread or weaving, but I can make all three, and use them. I appreciate a great American genius has left me not wholly destitute of talent!

Several years ago I had the burning desire, to quote my grandson, to put a weaving studio back together, and I did. How satisfying to run the threads through my hands another time, thread up my trusty, utilitarian, towels, check tension, then sit and mindlessly weave, my ears tuned to music, books, lectures de jour.

How easily it all came together, how easily it all flew apart, as you may recall. But in the middle, stacks of towels. The kitchen towel drawer was topped off, as were children and friends.  And still the stack grew. What to do, what to do.

In a bit of genius, I sent them on the wind, into the universe.

One hallmark of the clothing we wove was folks’ reactions. They first would touch. That’s easy. Then wrap their arms around jackets. I really was selling “soft”. 

Towels would have stood the same test, but didn’t get it. They’re towels, for crying out loud. They live in a drawer, and are snatched out to dry dishes, wipe up counter messes, wipe the baby’s face, wipe the floor, dragged around by a foot. Towels are not sexy. They’re utilitarian.

Utility! Aha. My towels are the epitome of utility because they actually absorb moisture. I use ring spun cotton. That stuff I had to find all over again; sweater mills are gone, and the thread spun overseas is softened mechanically. Ring spun is stretched and compacted over and over. It is denser, and its ends are softened. It’s heavier than other spinning methods. It makes your best tee shirts. And the best towel.

Years ago I wove towels to experiment with weaving structure. Lots of open threads in the weave make towels super absorbent. But, they wear out too fast, or meet untimely ends in the washer or dryer. I came across and tried “draughts to increase journeyman ability” in old Dover reprints of fabric structure we barely know the names of these days. Plain, matt, rib, basket, twill.

Then I found the most clever structure, put together by the utilitarian genius of Shakers. It’s a plain, twill, grouped combination. I call it the Shaker Towel. All the action is in the railroad tracks that run the length. It’s a cord group, held together enough by the plain weave and twill sections. Then the plain weave, twill checks take over, and absorb more moisture. Or baby spit or kool aid. It’s just a damn fine towel.

But, no weaver would make towels to earn a living. Like everyone else, we set out to earn a fair return for our labor and material. Who would pay market value of a handwoven towel. They’re a loss leader, or a give away.

Those days are way behind me. I again can weave for the pure pleasure of watching the work unfold, the colors drift down the warp beam, the sunshine outlining the cat in the window. I cannot weave as fast, and I don’t care. I still can make piles of towels, then send them to the universe. It makes me happy. May we all live long enough.

Today I hemmed orange and garnet towels. I took the fabric from the loom, fulled it, cut it, hemmed it. I also gave some garnet towels to my card playing friends. Denim towels are on the loom now. See the difference between the woven fabric and the finished towel that has been fulled? Part of the magic. I think I’ll do purple next.