A Time to Draw

In that drifting place between awake and sleep, I wanted so much to draw what I was seeing…to see if I could draw dark upon dark…shapes and shadows lovely in their streetlamp glow. I hovered there taking it all in, relishing the abstractness of night, but willing myself to stay right there and not go downstairs to grab my sketchbook. I fell asleep content that I even have this desire to draw, and glad for tomorrow…a chance to drawcument moments , sketch small inconsequential things.

There is a time for drawing. And there is also a time for desiring to draw. I suppose one might say that all of life can be seen through the binoculars of pen and paintbrush, whether they’re being used or merely resting on my drawing table. It is not the drawings themselves that are noteworthy. It is the whisper that comes through them, a voluminous assurance that all is well and all will be well. I cannot tell you how this is.

In attempting to tell you I might say that the act of sketching in a sketchbook is a bit like the dandelion I saw yesterday morning on my walk. Truly it was (or seemed to me) the only one growing along the sidewalk. I snapped its photo, intent on drawing it later, savoring the golden ruffle of petals in a sea of green and purple weeds. Today, as I walked, the entire yard of that same lone dandelion was dotted with so many of them, I wondered if I just hadn’t taken the time to really look yesterday! They were everywhere…as if the one brave dandy had told them all that it was safe to come out now. Golden gumdrops all waving their pretty little heads at me as if to say, “Draw me next!”

That’s how it happens. One sketch opens a doorway to so many more! I am thoroughly enthralled with lines and dancing colors on white pages and am now in that familiar state of quivering-with-delight-bordering-on-anxiety that I won’t be able to sketch them all! This kind of overwhelm threatens to shut me down completely, and has on many occasions. But I know how to work with it. I know what to say to the clamoring though cheerful dandelions. It is to sit down with them, each in their turn, and to assure them…”All in good time, dear…all in good time.” Then to walk away relishing the desire to draw as a good and perfect gift from above.

I will not be able to draw them all. Nope. Not even remotely. I share with you just a few of the recent “golden dandelions” in and around the yard of my life. There are more to be sketched. And many that will not make it into my sketchbook. I will still treasure them and listen for the whispers they send me…words from an expansive world of light and loveliness, so needed in my day to day comings and goings, tragedies and triumphs.

I’m off to live the day. There’s a pen and sketchbook in my purse. Ready for drawing a dandelion.🌼

My Tea Garden

I am a tea drinker. Yes, coffee in the morning…but tea the rest of the day. Hot tea, even in summer. But I do love brewing tea and then pouring it over ice on especially hot days. All kinds of teas…dark and caffeinated to light herbal teas, green teas with a touch of lemon or ginger, peppermint…well, it’s all delicious!

Except for Lapsong Souchong…nope…don’t like that stuff…tastes like a mouthful of smoke. Blech.

But I digress…what I’m so crazy excited about is my newly established Back Deck Tea Garden! I’ve been dreaming of it for a while now, got a book about how to start one and what kinds of plants would yield what kinds of teas. Of course, doodling ideas in my sketchbook was a must to work out what I might like to start with, what I already have on hand, and how it might grow right there on my deck.

You see…I’m not very much of a gardener. Oh I have all kinds of grand visions of gardens and I can plant them in the ground. But then I say to the little plants “Grow and Flourish” and I walk away. If I don’t see them, I tend to forget they need watering and tending. Come mid-summer they are wilting and gasping for water. But if plants are on the deck, right where I can see them out my kitchen window, I tend to them much better.

So here’s my little Tea Garden in its infancy. Of course, I have flowers in and around the herbs. Some of the flowers, such as Bee Balm (which is actually Bergamot!) and Tufted Violets were listed in my Tea Book as lovely plants from which to harvest flowers and leaves for tea! Planted in and among the other flowers I have lavender, rosemary, peppermint, basil, another kind of mint, lemon balm and I hope to have some chamomile I’m trying to grow from seed. A good start I think!

I’m dreaming of sipping freshly made teas from my little garden all summer and then drying them for fall and winter tea. I’m also planning on lots of drawing and sketches from the flourishing plants!

Now to go water them and whisper to them to grow, grow, grow!

Taking Hold of A Line

Before Lent began, a dear friend and I decided to walk through Lent with a sketchbook in our hands. This isn’t radically different from my normal everyday practice, but I had been sporadic with sketching, especially as a long, rainy & cold winter had all but sapped the color from my eyes.

The benefit of seasons, both in nature and the church calendar, is that they afford us an opportunity for change. I know I was parched for the nourishment of my sketchbook, but I don’t think I realized just how much so. Committing to a daily drawing (or two:) in a sketchbook, actively seeking something of note either mundane or magical, sets in motion a rumbling akin to Springtime…a quiet steady blowing on near-to-dying embers.

At first, weeks ago, I drew from my imagination, interior conversations, fantastical landscapes filled with color which I long to walk in. I also drew happenings, actual walks around Salem Lake and elsewhere, silliness with my daughters, the college world that is in my home.

For the first couple of weeks it was enough to just make one drawing, or two each day. Now I am filling page after page and my head is filled with far more drawings I don’t have the time for each day but am planning to sketch them soon! Photos are good for this…snap a photo and draw later from that if I’m unable to draw from life.

I’ve certainly experienced this before, but it is a wonder and a delight to pick up my pen and feel the taking hold of a line. Then soon having that line wrap itself around me and pull me along showing me all the things, places, events I can draw in my sketchbook! Drawings beget drawings…always! Ahhh… (contented sigh😊)

I have realized in writing this post, that I have far more I want to share with you through the lens of my sketchbook. So I will do so in shorter posts in the upcoming days. There are too many sketches to cram into one blog post! And I’m hearing my sketchbook call out to me just now as the blooming pear trees in my neighborhood are bursting like popcorn in a kettle!

Must go draw…but I’ll be back to share the findings!💖

The Woven Way

From where I sit, walking the treadles, threads reach out in front of me…a long narrow path, open to possibility, unknown, undiscovered.

Rolled up underneath this path is what I wove yesterday. I can’t see it. I try to remember the colors and textures of days gone by. Some I remember vividly, others blur and fade. I wish I could go back and see if it all works together, what I was weaving with then, whether I am weaving today what will complement yesterday.

(selecting colors to begin weaving)

The open warp threads have always been exciting to me…like blank sketchbook pages, the open sea, a wide expanse of meadow. I have yet to walk into them, sail into their uncharted waters, make colorful marks on the white pages.

As I peer through the heddles I wonder what these threads might bring. Difficulty, pain and loss are surely bound up in what’s to come, just as it has before. I can’t stay there long, peering beyond the reed…I must return to what’s right here, in front of me, today and its open threads.

(Small freeform tapestry on a frame loom)

It is here, in these moments of weaving color and wool, ribbon and locks, that the path ahead and behind me falls away and I can sink into what is happening here between the warped threads. I reach for what I’m given, work with what I’ve spun, passing a shuttle full of joy through the open threads, as if I’m feeding a mouth hungry for beauty and truth.

I know that one day the cloth will be unwound and I’ll get to see its entirety. I have a feeling that I won’t see it as something entirely woven by myself. I imagine that as I’m shown the cloth of my life, I will see it as woven by another’s Hand, a path that I surely walked, but which has been transformed into something far more than what I could ever have woven. The dark, tear-stained colors will serve to enrich and enliven the joy-filled filaments of light. Woven throughout, I’ll see the Golden thread given to me to follow to the end of the cloth.

(previously woven handspun cloth)

I like to think that it is this very cloth which will become an imperishable robe of sparkling threads. My reverie of future transformation must somehow be brought into walking the treadles of today. So I lean into the warped loom, pick up a bobbin full of color and pass the shuttle through.

***** Do you have ways that you bring the hope of future transformation into your daily life? I’d love to hear about it if you wish to share! ❤️

Cloth

The making of cloth is an enchanting endeavor.

Somehow…with the simplest of ability and materials…something soft is created that warms and mesmerizes.

Enchanting cloth begs to be shared. Check out all the handwoven scarves/wraps I’m sharing in my shop!

Perhaps you’ll find something enchanting there. 🙂

**Dear Reader…Happy New Year! Ha! It’s a bit late, and I can hardly believe January has already flown by. Here in North Carolina we are having some wintry weather days and I’m always eagerly anticipating whether we will actually get some accumulated snow. Hope springs eternal in my heart for SNOW! I realize that some of you may be getting way more snow than you’d like. I’d happily take some of it off your hands (or rather, from your yards/driveways :).

Anyway…I am in the process of resuming my newsletter and blogging a bit more regularly. I sincerely hope you are all enjoying many creative endeavors from playing the harp, to mosaics, to sketching and drawing, to knitting, crochet, spinning or weaving! Here’s to a year filled with making! I hope to inspire and encourage you along the way!

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

Growth

A tapestry grows much like a plant does, or a tree…from the bottom up. There may be rare times when a weaver might work a few passes of wool up higher on the warp. But most of the time we work from a foundation of warp-spacing weft and the building of over-under color, tamped down tightly, to create a strong fabric for the image to evolve. Sometimes the image a weaver creates is sideways, but they nevertheless weave from the bottom of their loom to the top. Different from painting, tapestry is the creation of the canvas and the painting at the same time. Pretty cool stuff if you ask me.

The first time I heard the word Ekphrastic, it was in relation to poetry written based on visual artwork. For this piece I was asked to create a visual work based on a poem. I relished the opportunity to imagine how words someone else had written might translate to a pictoral language. Familiar with the biblical story of the Root of Jesse and the new life growing from a cut-down family tree, I wanted to see if I could weave this image in wools, both my own handspun and mill spun.

What grabbed my heart in reading Randy Edwards’ poem, which is based on the Antiphon titled “O Radix”, was the idea that this new branch from Jesse’s tree grew into a cross. Of course this is far more subtly related in his poem, but I wanted to depict the idea of a new dawn, new growth, foreshadowing what is to come…a promise fulfilled in Christ’s death and resurrection. Advent holds all of these things in beautiful tension even as we await celebrating a babe born in a manger.

I used to love working with soft pastels to create images on paper. Unlike all other “paint” mediums, I could manipulate color and create images directly touching the medium, spreading color around, smooshing pigment into the slightly toothed surface. No need for a paintbrush or pen. Just me and the stick of pigment.

Tapestry has that same incredible feel of direct tactile enjoyment, but without the messiness and dust of soft pastels. I get to enjoy spinning the yarn, choosing the colors, and then building the image, one pick at a time, over and under the vertical warp. I may use a plastic hair pick to tamp down the weft, but most of the time I just use my fingers to do this. Tactile work at its finest!

I am only in the beginning years of learning to weave tapestry. I am learning so very much and relishing the process. There has certainly been growth thus far, but there is more ahead as I weave one yarn at a time. What once was created in paint or pastels, I now love attempting to create in yarn. It is a medium which, in and of itself, is one of the most enchanting and delightful substances around.

”O Radix”. Jennifer Edwards. 2020.

To end this slightly rambling post, I have taken heart in the image of a grand tree which has been cut down bringing forth new life and growth. I’m holding to this idea as 2020 has dealt us some pretty hefty axe blows and 2021 is slated to bring us a glimmer of hope . I must remember that growth , just like tapestry weaving, is very slow. The promised new branch, meant to save us from this devastating virus, will take a long time to bring about its desired effect. We must hold onto hope as we exercise patience in our waiting. That’s how growth happens…one pick of over-under color at a time.

Close-up detail.

Here is Randy Edwards’ poem on which I based the tapestry. This is taken from a post in 2016, when he first wrote the poem. You might enjoy following his blog as he is creating short videos of the art exhibit which includes artwork from several artists and voice readings of the poetry by Ed Pilkington. You can find the first of these posts here.

*****

O Root of Jesse, standing as a sign among the peoples; before you kings will shut their mouths, to you the nations will make their prayer: Come and deliver us, and delay no longer.”

Isaiah 11:1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a
Branch will bear fruit.

There is nothing so hopeless as a tree’s
Stump whose root has been lopped of green
Cut down, left lifeless, without its leaves
To lie in lament, to sorrow only cling.

O Root of Jesse, the stump from which
Buds our righteousness, joy, and peace
Who makes the scorned, the cut off rich,
Who were despised, hated, counted least.

O how may hope from this lifeless wood,
This cursed, crossed tree raised above,
Hanging with death, certainly no good,
Could spring in new life, sing wondrous love.
Come quickly Root of Jesse, deliver and bring
The peace which the nations long and sing.

© Randy Edwards 2016This sonnet is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thanks.

Spinning My Wheels

I stepped into an elevator. I was the only one in it and as the door closed I looked for a button to push. One single silver button was barely visible in the oddly painted interior of this elevator. I pushed it and immediately I began going up. But not for long. The elevator stopped. I pressed the button again and it began to go down. Or at least it felt like “we” were going down. The elevator stopped again and while searching for the button to push, I realized you couldn’t really tell where the door was due to the all over sponged paint job inside the elevator. Finding the button, I pushed it and once again I could feel the elevator going up, the familiar whirring sound of gears and machinery, letting me know I was indeed moving. Or was I?

This time the elevator didn’t stop. It just kept right on going…up…I felt sure. I began to hear voices outside the elevator. Two men. One was perhaps an elevator mechanic, the other the owner of the building. They seemed to be discussing what was wrong with the elevator. Theories and possible solutions were being bantered about as I continued to go up and I began to worry that the elevator might not stop, like the one in Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.

I looked up and saw that there was no ceiling to the elevator. There was however, a roof belonging to the building but I was in no danger of busting through the roof because the elevator was not moving after all! There was the sensation of movement, the sounds of an elevator working, but in fact “we” weren’t going anywhere…stalled at the ceiling while others tried to figure out how to fix it.

This morning’s dream seems all too true as I have found myself saying to a friend or two that I feel like I’m “spinning my wheels”. Each time these words have inadvertently flown out of my mouth, a little grin begins at the corners, for I realize that indeed I HAVE been spinning my wheels, and my drop spindles and support spindles. I typically think of this expression – spinning my wheels – as a description of being stuck in a muddy hole and the vehicle’s tires being unable to get any traction. Going nowhere fast. All the work and daily grind, but no forward movement for all our efforts. My elevator dream was in fact a fairly accurate depiction of how life feels for many of us during this pandemic.

Sitting on my desk is a lovely pile of freshly plied yarn. I have left it sitting there, instead of putting it away in a ziplock bag (on account of the cat), to remind me of a simple truth…

Spinning my wheels will, someday, in the end,

yield something beautiful and useful.

I’m holding onto this Golden Thread because most days feel a lot like sitting with wool twisting in my hands over and over and over again. And though I dearly love that repetitive work, it helps me to remember that bobbins are being filled and beautiful yarn is, despite everything, being made for use later. I do look forward to a day when we will be able to see some positive outcomes of our daily “going nowhere” in the elevator of COVID 19.

*****

Dear Reader…I’d love to know how you are holding onto a Golden Thread? What is helping you through the uncertain days? ❤️

Loose Ends Meet Warp

Recently I’ve been diving into the chaos of my snippet jar. So many yarn ends from past knitting projects and weavings, piled in a glass bowl, whisper possibility.

Life can feel much like this. Loose ends. Chaos. Disorganization. Bits of this and that which don’t seem to add up to a whole lot of anything. This niggling sense that very little of what we are doing will have a lasting impact, or that there is a desired end in sight, may largely be due to the resurging pandemic. Yet even before this mask-wearing, Zoomed relationships, semi-lockdown life, I am often plagued by an overwhelming sense that the end result of all my efforts is just a chaotic pile of fluff and string.

Futility is heavy. It can weigh and wear us down to where we think that letting our hands hang limp would surely be better than trying to make something of this crazy time. Here is where a warped viewpoint is helpful.

I love the look of a freshly warped frame loom! Something about those evenly spaced, straight, taut lines of cotton seine twine invite a sense that no matter what is woven over and under the warp strands, something lovely can made. A snippet of yarn here, a leftover bit of handspun there…the warp provides a structure on which to drape whatever loose ends I might have. Chaos is brought into order. Beauty is made from cast-off, insignificant bits and bobs. What might have been trash becomes something worth saving, even displaying on the wall, to remind us there is always Beauty underfoot no matter how dire or chaotic things may seem.

For now, as we weave with whatever bits we have each day, it may not appear to add up to anything. In fact, it may continue to look like a vast year of mess and uncertainty. But someday, we just might look back on all of it from a different perspective and see what has been wrought with what little we had to work with. We must continue to dive into the chaos and work with whatever bits we have at our fingertips to make this day worth living.

“Remembrance Day”, 3.25” x 3.25”, mixed fibers, cotton warp.

This week I’m thankful for the snippet jar. I want to remain grateful for all that I have, even if it feels like a crazy mess of leftover attempts to make something useful and beautiful here in 2020. Whatever we put our hands to create today, may we cast off futility and pick up a bit of fluff to weave into the strong, albeit warped structure of family, friends, and an abiding faith.

“Bloom Today”, 5.5” x 2.5”, mixed fibers, cotton warp.

The Land of Yarn Drobe

I am the happy recipient of a magical gift! My son has been working on repurposing an old gun cabinet into a yarn display case for my studio. It was to be my birthday gift this summer, but has just recently been finished. Knowing that I would not house guns in it, he and our neighbors, who are in the business of upcycling furniture, added shelves and painted it the perfect color for holding yarns in my studio. I could not be more delighted with it!!

The wonderful thing about a gift like this is that it sparks the imagination. As soon as the small cabinet was situated in between two picture windows in my studio sunroom, I saw it as a magical wardrobe, much like that of C.S. Lewis’ in the Chronicles of Narnia. The blue cabinet sat empty for a couple of days as my busy life prevented me from filling it. As always, the busy-ness of life allows for ideas to percolate and simmer. While on my morning walk yesterday, the whole story of this Land of Yarn Drobe unfolded with each step and I worked all day, in between laundry and the daily to-do list, to complete it.

Macy, Purl, Marisol and Clarissa the friendly Cat, had been eagerly waiting for me to finish filling the beautiful blue cabinet so that they could enter and have a look around. Here is a brief account of their first venture into the Land of Yarn Drobe.

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All you need to enter the enchanted world of Yarn Drobe is this magical key. As the door creaks open you will shrink in size so that you, dear human, may romp on the hills of woolly color, climb spindle trees, and meet the big, tall, but NOT terrible giants of the land. Yarn Drobe is a place where sheep roam the hills and birds spin the wool into swirly nests of yarn. There is even a twinkling spindle tree to light your path.

Those who enter this magical world have a difficult time leaving, as the cheery colors and soft fields of wool soothe their hearts and inspire their imaginations. Macy, Purl, Marisol and Clarissa the friendly Cat ventured into Yarn Drobe warily, not knowing what they might find. But when the giants, Mortimer and Millicent, greeted them warmly and the spinning birds pulled up woolly nests for them to sit upon, they soon felt they could stay here for many seasons. They passed the day with their new friends touring the colorful landscape and spinning to their hearts’ content.

As evening fell, Macy began to wish for her own cozy bed back at the Spinning House. Purl and Clarissa decided to go with her, albeit reluctantly. Marisol, however, knew in her heart upon entering this magical land, that this would be her home. She bade her friends farewell for now, with many hugs and kisses, inviting them to return as often as they wished. She made sure to point out to them where the key was located and that they were always welcome to come walk and play on the woolen hills, spin yarn, and sit under the light of a spindle tree.

**********

And so begins the adventures of Marisol the Mouse

in the Land of Yarn Drobe.

Spinning Wheel Basket

My new-to-me Ashford Traditional spinning wheel requires the use of an orifice hook, which is not a necessity with my vintage Louet hand-painted wheel. I also have learned that I need to oil my wheels far more often than I had been doing and this has made such a difference in the way both wheels spin! But to have these tiny tools handy for their frequent use was getting complicated. Our dear cat Milo thinks anything long and skinny on the floor is a snake or something to bat around with his paws. Setting them on a chair or table meant that I had to go looking for them whenever I needed them.

A couple of spinning friends of mine have these cute little baskets that hang from the maiden upright at the front of their wheels. Perfect spot to grab the orifice hook, wheel oil and even a Wraps Per Inch measuring tool. I set about trying to find a way to make my own basket.

I could certainly have bought a small wicker basket. But I really wanted to make my own thing. I did see a Free pattern on Ravelry for a beautiful knitted-then-felted basket specifically for a spinning wheel . But I wanted the bottom and sides of the basket to be sturdy and for the orifice hook not to get caught on the felted fabric. Hmmm…

After a bit of pantry-raiding and idea-casting, here’s what I made! I hope you like it, whether you are a spinner or a knitter or you just want something cute to hang and be useful in so many ways. I’m sharing the pattern and directions with you here so that you can make one too!

Happy Spinning & Knitting!

*******

Spinning Wheel Basket

By Jennifer Edwards

Materials

Size 3 dpns 

Fingering/sport weight handspun yarn 

Yarn needle

Drink mix plastic box cut at 4” tall or desired height

one or two 1/8” Satin ribbons, cut approx. 18” long

Directions

Cast on 12 sts.

Starting with a knit row, Work in Stockinette stitch for 24 rows.

On next knit row, k12, and do not turn, pick up and knit 16 sts evenly across side (Pick up 2 for every 3 rows) , pick up and knit 12 across cast on edge and then pick up and knit 16 sts along final edge. ( 56 sts total)

Place all sts on 4 dpns. Place marker at beg of round.

Begin with Garter stitch rounds (knit a round, Purl a round) 2x .

On next Knit round, decrease one stitch at each corner with K2tog. (4 sts decreased…total of 52 sts. 

Continue knitting in stockinette for four rounds and then garter stitch for four rounds, changing colors as desired and alternating between stockinette and garter until piece is 1/2” from top. (The cover works best if you stretch it up a bit so that it fits more snugly around the plastic container.)

Work in garter for 6 rounds. Then work in Stockinette for 5 rounds . Bind off.  (Note: I did not weave in the ends from changing colors due to the plastic liner covering all of that. But you can weave in any ends you like.)

Using a sharp pointy knife or awl, Poke holes into the plastic box you have cut to desired height , 1/2” from top of plastic box . Fold the top of your knitted cover over the box top with the final stockinette portion turned down over the edge. Starting at one of the corners and Using yarn needle and 1/8” ribbon, secure the top of the knitted cover by sewing through the plastic and the knitting. Make sure to secure the bind off edge inside of the box also as you sew. When you’ve made it back around to the corner, tie ribbons in a bow.

Using same needles, Work a four stitch I-cord for desired length of basket handle. Mine was 5” and has stretched out a little bit already. Bind off.

Using yarn needle, stitch ends of I-cord to corners on opposite sides of box. 

Hang basket onto your spinning wheel. If needed, stitch the last end of I-cord after hanging the basket where you want it to be. Fill basket with spinning wheel oil, wpi tool, orifice hook, etc.

*******