Friday, May 28, 2010


I finally figured out how to weave and construct a cocoon, a very simple jacket/wrap made from two rectangles of handwoven cloth to be worn over a T-shirt, turtleneck, or simple dress. Without having an actual cocoon in hand, I relied on photos of the design that made it appear much more complicated than it is. Here are photos of my weaving experiments from this past week. These cocoons were woven on a mixed rayon/cotton warp. The wefts are cottons and synthetics from yarns I purchased in a "grab bag". I love the tweed-like effects. All three fabrics washed and dried beautifully. I added a few beads, either glass or wooden, on the cocoons' lapels for fun. Because they're experiments and the yarn was a bargain, I'm offering them for only $85 each.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


It's been an exciting week: my daughter Katie's book arrived in the mail (ALEUT IDENTITIES by Katherine Reedy-Maschner). The Preface is a fun read, has lots of our Croner family lore regarding her grandfather's (my father's) sailing escapades in Alaska and other Pacific Rim locations.

I also received a great picture book, photos of International/Historical textiles. The book documents beautiful blankets, clothing, headdresses, shoes, decorative tent bags from a variety of cultures around the world.

And second best to Katie's book, a huge box of yarn arrived, a grab bag of textures in reds, pinks and purples. I immediately measured a warp to weave a cocoon, a comfortable jacket/shawl fashioned from rectangles. I'll be putting the warp on the loom this afternoon, after visiting with a financial advisor to further see how this retirement business is going to work out.

My other loom is warped in 5 shades of green and I'm weaving another batch of tea towels/bread cloths. A cone of variegated, slub, cotton yarn arrived just in time for experimentation. The plethora of colors blend quite well over the random greens. I think I'll weave several of them as well as use the green yarns to create irregular plaid, Irish-green effects.

A recent NPR program discussed depression; a writer/guest described a peculiar ceremony he took part in in Kenya that was designed to cure depression. The ceremony required being stripped naked and being covered in mud; there was western music and African drumming, and eventually he was wrapped in the intestines of a sacrificial animal which he and the supportive crowd roasted and consumed together. And what amazed him is that he felt better when it was all over having been shaken from the trap in which he'd allowed his mind and western culture to envelop him.

Years ago, I read somewhere, one of those tidbits that lingers in the mind, that Jewish Rabbis are required to take up some kind of craft in which they must use their hands, things like woodworking, gardening, playing a musical instrument, etc., in order to keep them grounded in reality so that inquisitive minds don't run amok into the abstract. At least that's how I interpreted the demand. It makes sense to me. I find I'm most content when I'm involved in hands-on projects. There's much talk about eye/hand coordination, but there is also an important body/mind connection that much of our post-industrial lifestyle has erased. Perhaps too many things are done for us, and as a result, we fail to reap satisfaction from the simple tasks of yore like chopping wood, growing our own food, baking bread and even grinding our own grains. Spinning and weaving clothing and useful household textiles easily fits into this scenario.

As a child I read about Bedouin women spinning and weaving the tents they lived in, weaving the blankets they slept under, the rugs they slept on, the bags they stored their things in, making each item both for the sake of utility and beauty. Making things is a significant element of human nature; it's not by accident that engaging in crafts is relevant therapy in our culture's many mental health facilities . . .

Sunday, May 9, 2010

"Keep on keeping on"

Well, I guess it's official. I'm formally retired, the silver pen and pencil set has arrived from the university along with a certificate of appreciation. Kinda cheesy, but OK. It's kind of an odd retirement since I will return in the fall to teach part-time. With this quasi-forced arrangement, I gain lots of personal time, but lose my health insurance. There's no way I can continue to pay for it, and I don't qualify for Medicare for two more years.

Somehow this isn't how I envisioned retirement. First of all, I never expected to retire at all since I returned to the workforce so late in life. And secondly, "retirement" really means I slip back into pre-master's degree poverty, holding my heart in my mouth every time a bill arrives in the mail or I feel a twinge of pain. But I'm not surprised; I knew the bottom would fall out of things once I reached this age. I'm a baby-boomer of course, that generation that gets blamed for all the country's ills of the moment due to no fault of our own.

There are too many of us, babies born in celebration of the end of a devastating world war. Our numbers are sucking Social Security dry, and young people resent having to pay for our menial survival. However, few care to mention that we paid into the system too for this past half century and might deserve some of the benefits as well.

World cruises, sailboats, travel to exotic places, time on the beach won't be what my retirement is all about. I'll be lucky if I can maintain a roof over my head. These unexpected circumstances will certainly force me to keep busy, "busy" apparently being a respected American value since if you ask nearly anyone how they are, their response is "busy."

In the wake of my concern, my oldest daughter said, "You've always been very resourceful," and I guess she's right. I have been, and I'm quite proud of having fed and cared for my kids seeing them safely into adulthood. I'm proud of returning to the university later in live to complete my degrees, and I've enjoyed my years working as a newspaper reporter and college English instructor. I've worked hard and made use of the many disparate things I've learned along the way from farming/gardening/butchering chickens, to running a literary magazine, to writing/reporting, teaching, spinning wool, weaving, playing piano. Some activities that many would dismiss as mere hobbies, have turned into somewhat lucrative projects.

Generally, I enjoy my life. My children are close at hand. My grandsons are wonderful people

So, I guess I'll take songwriter Bob Dylan's words to heart and "keep on keeping on."

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Gypsy Caravan Bread Cloths

Crank up your favorite Gogol Bordello CD and cover your bowl of rising bread with one of these bread cloths; wrap a loaf in a cloth as a gift for a new neighbor.

I've always been fond of gypsy fashion and art. As a child in the western Washington woods of the 1950s, Gypsy was my Halloween costume choice. I loved colorful scarves, long skirts and dangling earrings -- still do. Recently a group of dear friends and I watched the 2009 film THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS starring Christopher Plummer in which a traveling troupe of colorful magicians seek love and adventure and answers to the age-old riddles of life.

Costumes in the film are ethereal, glittery, bleeding color and sparkle. The film once again brought out my love for color, music, mysticism, fortune telling. . . I loved the film, even though it is not a box-office hit, but then I rarely agree with critics or the tastes of mass audiences.

Gypsies, Romani, have been either romanticized or vilified over the centuries. Hitler put them in death camps and eastern European governments forbade them their free, wandering lifestyle and forced them into mean camps/villages without decent means of support. According to recent news reports, they are still a controversial ethnic group in Europe and America.

Maybe I was a gypsy in a past life. Who knows?