Category Archives: Handwork

Keeping the hands busy

Yes, it has been a shamefully long time since I last blogged. Life here on the farm just requires way more time than we ever seem to have. The brutal winter didn’t help much, as we shifted between trying to prevent ice damage and frozen pipes, and endless hours of snow shoveling. (Worst of all: where to put all that white stuff??)

Thankfully we believe the winter is over and gone, and we are appreciating somewhat warmer days and (for now, at least) rain instead of snow. I was, however, able to use some of those no-electricity days and too-tired-to-work evenings to keep up with some knitting projects.

Naturally I started about ten new ones, too, so I’m just now (and very slowly) finishing them off one by one. Here are a few of the off-the-needles-at-last efforts. (Click on photo to enlarge, and to find out what these are.)


My latest quilting adventure

I just couldn’t resist. Missouri Star Quilt Company’s Daily Deal had a gorgeous batik “jelly roll” as the Daily Deal a few weeks back, so I of course I bought it. And if you want to or do quilt, but don’t know about jelly rolls, honey buns, turnovers and layer cakes, just buzz on over to MSQ and dive in!

I thought about it for a few weeks, and then my sister sent me some great fabric and a jelly roll quilt pattern book for my birthday. There it was, the perfect pattern for my batiks. Not only is this really easy, quick and rewarding to create, the result is just beautiful! Can’t wait to finish the top and send it back to Jenny Doan and company at MSQ to quilt for me.

The book pattern is called “Decadent Victorian” (they used lovely Victorian patterns for the book photos), so I guess this one is a Decadent Batik. Fine by me.

When finished, this quilt will eventually show up in our online store—or maybe some lucky soul will contribute a zillion dollars to our capital campaign and this will be their thank you gift! Woohoo!

Good Friday

Holy Week is all about weaving:  weaving the strands of those last weeks and days of Jesus’ life into a story that has had amazing staying power. Today, some say, is the real culmination of that story. I’m inclined to think the particular focus of each day is a culmination of its own.

But then, these days I’m given to quantum-world thinking, which allows such things as multiple “bests” without so much as a backward glance.

On a roll … literally

The weaving fool-ness is in full swing.

The loom is warped and I’ve started on the long-anticipated Dishtowel Project #2.  All of Gertie’s restoration work was so worth it — her harnesses whisper up and down, the shed yawns open to perfection, not a single tie-up hook has bounced off (that is so annoying), and not one warp thread has broken in the weaving process!

(OK, not yet anyway. And if you read between the lines, you might suspect I snapped some warp threads before the weaving began. Still have a lot to learn about warping.)

The first towel is now nearly completed and more will soon be rolling up on the beam below, snuggled around a brand new apron cloth.


Weaving catch-up

I’ll just bet all of you are out there, sitting around, wondering what in the world happened to my weaving adventures.

Wonder no more.

After weaving a few articles, I decided I had learned enough about the loom that I should take a stab at a bit of rehab. Let me say right up front: if it hadn’t been for Sarah Haskell, I’d still be down there with my head stuck somewhere under the harnesses, wondering how I got there and how in the world I was going to get out again.

It was true, our lovely loom needed a little help after traveling five hours in a driving rain in the back of a pick-up to get to us. (To say nothing of the fact the I later learned she is about as old as I am. No wonder there are a few problems.) So first I took the harnesses apart and made sure all the heddles were on the bars correctly, cleaned and Vaselined the bars and replaced the end brads. Easy-peasy.

Then I got to noticing a few things that might not have been quite right: were those jacks supposed to be a bit snaggle-toothed? And how about those harnesses … none quite the same height as its neighbor, some a bit higher on one side than the other. Was that OK?


Enter Sarah the Savior. I inundated her with several thousand questions, all of which she answered promptly, clearly and with an amazingly patient sense of humor.  And she encouraged me, which goes way beyond what I expected.

About a week later, our harnesses, jacks, chains and side wires are all straight as the proverbial arrow.

Yessssss …  Straightened wires, jacks, chains and harnesses

I sewed a new apron for the cloth beam, and then gave Gertie (I know, “Arachne” would have been a more appropriate name—but I love “Gertie” so Gertie the Loom she is) several baths and brushings and Vaselineings and silicon sprayings. We found some jack bumpers hanging out in a not very useful place and snuggled them under the jacks. We found super hooks and exchanged the older, looser models for these. I ordered new bumpers for the jacks and beater, and also bought a replacement foot rail.

On a roll now.

Gertie was practically whispering rather than rattling and clanking!

Then … uh-oh. I couldn’t get those back apron strings to come out even no matter how hard I tried. Finally I backed up to check the level of the apron rod and saw what looked like a sag in the back cross beam.


So I measured it, and yuckomundadoodle, yes, it was between 1/4″ and 1/2″ lower in the middle. Well, that gave me at least one reason why those strings wouldn’t even out. And it probably had something to do with why the end warps on nearly every project so far had kept snapping.

Back to Sarah. “Try to sand it down,” she advised, so our know-how-do-to-everything Companion Bill brought over the big sander and went to work. When he was done with the big stuff, I fine-sanded the edges and top of the beam, and added a few coats of protective varnish.

Now the only thing left to do is either get those warp apron strings evened out, or surrender and make one more cloth apron for the back.

Then … look out world. I’m going to be a weaving fool.

Back at Holy Cross …

Foggy January morningEighteen committed (read: addicted) yarn-workers gathered this month for a three-day retreat called “Prayerful Stitches”.  Led by two of the brothers, all of us indulged our innate sense that handwork is connected to — in fact, rooted in — the Sacred.

Not only was the retreat a fabulous success, but we were graced by some amazing Handwork of another kind. This foggy morning just begged to be photographed. I took this photo from my room early one morning. The roof (at the bottom) is the monastery refectory; the small bright light (left side, just below middle) is the reflection of the rising sun on the Hudson  River. The fog was still lingering heavily, in spite of the sun’s best efforts to burn it off.

This particular shot was taken through two windows and with a cell phone. Even so, you can probably tell it was Handwork of the highest order.

Just a wee heads-up; this retreat is to be repeated October 14-17, scheduled to coincide with the annual Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival, which will be the Saturday treat of a lifetime if you’ve never been there. My guess is that this will fill up long before the official announcement comes out, so if you’re interested, contact the monastery now!