Sunday, January 31, 2010


Note: All the photos in this post were taken indoors and were hindered slightly by grimy windows, sunshine, and snow glare. My apologies, but the camera and my fingers don't work so well outdoors when it is -6 to -11F. We'll have to make do!

I responded to about half your comments when I realized it was time to start pondering a post on the plowing, as promised. (when I started getting spam comments in a language I don't read, I got on the stick to write you a new post!)

The sunshine after a storm is remarkable here in Winnipeg. We have bright sunny days which would fool the heck out of you if you didn't, say, lean against the window a moment. You'd think it was warm. Except, it isn't. We were reminded of this yesterday, when the backdoor lock stopped working -again-with the dogs outside in the backyard. All is well, they were brought in quickly by the front door, and the professor has fixed the darn thing again. However, this level of cold [-20F(-29C)], yesterday morning-is the point where some things just don't work well. We have special ordered a storm door to protect the backdoor a bit and provide more insulation, but I digress...

OK, plowing. In upstate New York, in Ithaca and Buffalo, I lived on relatively main roads. In winter, I was lulled to sleep by a wonderful rhythmic noise...the sound of the snow plow. My head on the pillow, near a window, I'd hear a strong motor and the sound of the clink clink clink as the truck passed by. It was remarkably reassuring. I loved that late at night, fueled by coffee and overtime pay, these (mostly) men would patrol the roads, clearing the snow. During the storms and after the storms, as a result of their diligence, we got to school/work/appointments on time.

This wasn't entirely true. Secondary roads maybe didn't get cleared as fast. Also, sidewalks and driveways were all the homeowners'/renters'/college student's problem. Legally, one was bound to clear the sidewalks and so on. In Buffalo, as poor sorts just out of graduate school, we couldn't afford a "plow contract" with a private firm for our driveway. As a result, we were out shoveling our long driveway ourselves 3 or 4 times a week, every week from December through April. I am "in touch" with my inner snow shovel.

In the above scenario, most, if not all, people on the road were good winter drivers in snow.

OK, fast forward to the particular Virginia, North Carolina and Kentucky, all places I've lived. For the most part, these are places that have few or no plows. There's an attempt to clear highways and such, but in general? There's little or no good provision for snow, and yet it still falls from the sky on occasion. Almost no one knows how to drive in it, and even good snow drivers stay off the roads to avoid the crazy bad driving. Back to that image of me with my head on the pillow? In Kentucky, late at night, I'd hear skidding as some young buck tried to bully his car up our snowy or icy hilly street. We'd giggle. Often, he'd have to park by the side of the road and wait for a friend to help in the AM. We'd giggle then too.

In Winnipeg, things are different. It does snow here, but statistically, not as much as parts of Ontario and upstate New York. First, there are few of the enormous dump truck plows that were common in upstate New York. Many of the plows seem to be heavy construction equipment, bright yellow things like Bob the builder with scoopers and bobcats with plows attached.

The first thing plowed -after- a storm (you don't see much plowing happening right in the midst of it), are main roads and bus routes. From our house, on a corner, you can see a main road on the left side of this photo. There's a parking ban overnight when clearing snow is a priority, and a website that details what will be done and when.

Next, secondary streets in residential areas and back lanes (alleys behind houses) are done. By the time the secondary plowing happens here, it's hard to get the streets 'clean.' Apparently, the standard is a packed snow surface. If you look at this photo, (embiggen it to see this clearly), you can see Dorchester St., a side road. It's entirely snow covered all the time now. This packed snow surface is fine if there is no icing. Of course, there's ice in winter, and due to our gloopy mild conditions last weekend, we've got a skating rink, covered by a bit of snow!

Concurrent with this, sidewalks are plowed by little bobcat construction equipment. The areas near bus stops are done frequently, and we have a bus stop right by our house. Sally the dog hates this bobcat, which beeps as it backs up right near our living room, so I know they are plowing when I hear beeping and Sally loses her mind with barking!

Sidewalks in the residential neighborhoods are plowed later, and the first day or two after a storm can be hard going on a dog walk. The professor and I often shovel our sidewalk and that of an elderly neighbor's out of habit when we're doing our front walk...often a day before the city plows come by. It helps commuters get to the bus stop a little, too. (it's the only place we've been where sidewalks were plowed!)

Meanwhile, great mounds of snow build up on street corners. These mounds are removed every now and again to snow removal sites around the city. The one we pass most frequently looks like it's being built into an enormously steep ski slope. It reminds me of Buffalo Street in Ithaca or the San Francisco streets. I can only figure this is the public work's equivalent of art, since there's no reason to build a snow hill so high on the -flat- prairie except as a landmark!

At first, I was surprised here at how snow was cleared. It seemed, well, substantially less clear on the streets than I was used to before. However, there are no hills really (aside from weird snow hills!) to worry over. A skid here might be dangerous, and you might run into a car or a telephone pole. You might end up in a ditch. You will likely not end up a** over teakettle careening down an enormous hill to your death. Unlike in Ithaca, there are no gorges with running water to fall into, and the rivers are, for the most part, frozen solid.

Salt doesn't work here; it's just too cold. Sand is put down occasionally, but not that often. Mostly, people are expected to know how to drive in winter, or they walk or take the bus instead. All weather or winter tires are the norm. Anti-lock brakes, all wheel drive and seatbelts--these are important things to have in the winter!

Native Winnipeggers just expect that this is the way side roads will be--snow covered- in the wintertime. To quote a friend: "That's winter time driving for you." I met a few folks from southern Ontario's snowbelt regions who nod knowingly when I say there is less snow here than I experienced in Buffalo. However, I'm still new here and I'm sure there's more for me to discover about how and why the snow removal works this way. I'm still curious about it. (The professor thinks there is a snow removal union, and it prevents plowing snow on holidays, weekends, evenings, or during storms. He may be right!)

Handling winter-and snow-is always interesting to me. It turns out that one makes assumptions about lots of things. How snow plowing works, how things are packaged in the grocery store, how the postal system works--and none of these assumptions are quite right when you switch countries! Everything's just a bit different. Makes life stimulating!

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

thar she blows!

You know when you're standing around, cup of coffee in your hand at a social event, talking about weather? (imagine it, it will get you in the mood for this post!)

Every time we move from somewhere that is relatively "warm" to somewhere "cold" (and I've done this 3 times so far), we find ourselves talking a lot about weather. In Winnipeg, weather is a constant conversation, even among the natives, because it's pretty changeable. I mean, the range in temperatures goes from -50F to 90F, so there's a lot to discuss.

Remember the slushy wet weather we had last weekend? Starting Sunday evening, the temperatures dropped, all that slush froze, the wind picked WAY up and the snow was much more earnest. We had what the weather reports called "Blizzard Conditions."

We're wary about these weather reports because they mean different things to different people. For instance, what do snow flurries mean?
-In Kentucky: "I saw two flakes! Two big snowflakes! Run to the store for milk and bread right away! It's a weather emergency!"
-In Buffalo, NY, that means about 1-2 inches of snow, but it depends. If you're in a region less affected by "lake effect" snow, you get a dusting. More affected? Get your shovel out, your flurries will be 3 inches or more.
-In Winnipeg, so far, flurries seem to mean a dusting of snow, around a half inch or less (1-2 cm?) and not enough to shovel. A broom will do.

So, as you might imagine, we faced our first winter here with warm coats, long underwear, and a well-earned sense of wariness. It's hard to know what to expect. If you've always lived here (wherever "here" is) you sometimes lack context for your weather explanations.

Blizzard conditions, in upstate New York or New England, mean an enormous amount of snow, falling very fast, with poor visibility and possibly some wind. Temperatures for a blizzard along the east coast of the US are often between 20-30F, near freezing. By enormous, I mean, well, a foot of snow (30cm)is not uncommon as a starting point, and 3 feet (90cm) isn't all that unusual.

Blizzard conditions here in Winnipeg seem to mean:
-more snow than usual. We got about 5"(12cm) or so on Monday.
-very poor visibility
-serious amounts of wind. So much wind that the snow on the ground hops up and joins the party and dances around with whatever is coming from the sky. (remember, practically no trees, so there are few if any wind breaks)
-colder temperatures than that earlier blizzard...compared to New England? Think northern Vermont. Darn cold.
-drifts. Lots of drifting. Drifts bigger than Harry the dog.

All of this mattered because the professor was to go to Brandon (2.5 hours west of here on the Trans-Canada highway) to give a lecture at the university there. He had planned to leave Monday. Then the authorities closed the highway to Brandon. He rescheduled for Tuesday. He decided to go to work at the university, 5 miles (8 kilometers) away.

He did ok, he got there and back. He saw a car wrapped around a telephone pole and a two car accident where someone rear-ended someone else. For the latter accident, both men were outside in the blizzard yelling at each other so he figured they were ok and drove on.

On Tuesday, the professor hopped again in my bright yellow all-wheel drive, anti-lock brake car with good clearance and drove to Brandon. He saw cars in the ditches and a bus that looked like it was shipwrecked in a snowdrift. He gave his talk, met lots of people and even went out to eat. Temperatures dropped. It was around -22F(-30C.)

This morning, there was a light snow and a good breeze of up to 30 miles(50 km) an hour. He drove home, and all was well except for one icy section where he saw a car or two flipped over in the ditch and another on the other side of the road.

He got home in time to enjoy the meeting with the heating and plumbing guys. Our (hot water) heat is working, the house is warm, but this morning at 7:30, I saw water spurting from the emergency overflow so we had a little date with the repair guys. Nothing immediately wrong, although a valve might be faulty. (spurting hot water in the basement? Still weather, right? Might be a geyser!)

I meant to talk about how plowing works here, which is also interesting, (and very different from upstate New York) but this is getting long. I'll try to do that in another post.

So, how's the weather by you? Did you find this interesting?

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

and the winner is...

Well, this afternoon I popped numbers into the random generator and out popped a name. That person will be getting a signed copy of Fiber Gathering... and the winner is...(drum roll, please....) Diane Mulholland!

I'll be emailing Diane as soon as I finish posting this. Congratulations! Thank you to everyone who "played", I loved your notes! Aside from the whole book signing thing, I should mention that I've noticed that my book (list price $27.99 US) is now selling very affordably on Amazon. That is, somewhere around $12 or less...and I have no control over such things! So, if you were hoping for a copy but didn't win this time, click on the little image on the right of my blog for an affordable purchase.

The only shopping around here today would happen online, as nobody's venturing outdoors much. We're having weather that can be described as "Ithacating." What's that? Well, if you've ever lived in Ithaca, New York, (home to Cornell, where both the professor and I went as undergraduates) you know what I mean.

It's this goop that you can't see out a window. It comes from the sky and hits you on the face, stinging as you walk. It's sometimes snow, sometimes rain, sometimes sleet, and it's just damp and slushy and icky. Apparently a part of our mild January temperatures (roughly between 10-32F) here in Manitoba is a nice 3 day storm with lots of "ithacating." Of course, the temperatures here will drop very soon, which will result in an ice rink, with lots of blowing precipitation, but for now, we're holed up inside....cause there is no telling when the temperature will drop and leave you to skate your car!

Overcast days seem to allow our dogs to nap for longer and longer sessions, which is nice and quiet. Harry in particular seems to be taking the medal in the dog Olympic finals of napping.

Sally dog has been enjoying the dog bed in the professor's office, where she keeps some toys stashed beside her bed. Sadly, just as I walked in to snap a shot of the runner-up in the napping competition, I woke her up and disturbed her chance at Olympic level napping.

(And, if you think we in Canada now have Olympics on the brain, you'd be right! It's day and night excitement around here, waiting for Vancouver 2010. I've written two essays about it and tried to sell them to U.S. publications. No dice. Apparently either those publications already bought all their Olympics writing already--or it's not on their radar the way it is here!)

I've spent my time indoors hard at work. I'm now onto scarf #3 on the endless handspun warp that came with my new loom. With each scarf, I'm learning more, and with something like 9 meters of warp, well, I have at least another scarf to go before I have to figure out warping again. (Whew! It's warping from scratch that scares me...)

Scarf #3 has an interesting weft--a blue tweed handknitting yarn, Rowan DK, I think, interspersed with some very lightweight silk (3 strands wound together) in shades of teal and grays, purchased several years ago on Granville Island at the the silk weaving studio. (No, I wasn't weaving then, but the silk was too beautiful to leave there, so I bought some anyhow!)

On the knitting schedule was a reknit of my Heart's Ease sock pattern. The yarns originally called for in the pattern were, in part, no longer available. The "new" pattern is now available here on Ravelry and will be updated on my website shortly. The only changes to the pattern were very minimal...just a switch from a yarn called "Red" to one called "Serrano" and a new photo. Here it is, just in time for Valentine's Day knitting:

Lastly, heartened to hear from Geek Knitter that apparently the police have been hard at work in Crete. There have been some arrests in these two arson attacks at the synagogue in Hania. There has also been a lot of community and world-wide support to help this small building and congregation back on its feet. It's nice to hear some good news!

I hope you're all enjoying a little quiet and restful winter hibernation, wherever you live. I'm thoroughly enjoying a cloudy, wet, snowy, messy day...inside.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

vicarious qiviut

and travel...

A while back, my friend Donna Druchunas invited me to be part of her blog tour. This isn't because I contributed to her forthcoming book (information below) or even because I'm an expert on lace. Instead, it's because we both share a joy in common. We love to explore fiber arts topics when we travel. Even better, we like writing about it so others can experience all this vicariously, from home.

This qiviut story starts at least 10 years ago. (qiviut comes from musk oxen, it's very very warm and soft.) See photos, shot by my professor, for what a musk ox is! While I was in graduate school, I had an email "penpal" friendship with a spinner in Alabama. This kind spinner Ellen decided I must experience qiviut. She filled up a plastic baggie with a sample, sent it to me in the mail, and gave me a fabulous gift. That qiviut was a spinning experience! I plied it with tussah silk. I knit it into a scarf for my brother-in-law, who was single at the time.

He declared it a "chick magnet" scarf. He was right and is now happily married. I asked his wife recently, and she said-absolutely--a seriously seductive scarf!

About five years ago, my professor went to a summertime biology conference in Fairbanks, Alaska. At first, he wanted me to come with him. Then we looked at the high season airfare and other costs. (outrageously expensive!) I explained that while I could skip Fairbanks, what I really wanted was to visit the Large Animal Research Station, where the university biologists studied musk oxen.

My professor promised me a vicarious trip. He shot these photos so I could "see" the musk oxen in action. He described it to me in detail when he got home. He also purchased me an entire pound of the fiber.

I was so stunned by this gift (it's very expensive stuff) that at first, I didn't know what to do. Then, I got a grip and sent it out to be dehaired by machine. After that, I sold a couple of the ounces, and this helped cover this enormous purchase. The professor pointed out that compared to paying for my flights to Alaska, the qiviut was a trinket. This is a very rare and precious fiber. I had a hard time seeing it as a trinket. :)

Today, the qiviut awaits me--but sometimes waiting is the right thing. When Donna's book Arctic Lace came out, I had the pleasure of reviewing it. When I met the professor's new department chair here in Manitoba, she mentioned knitting a qiviut tuque (hat) for her husband as the ultimate in warm luxury. The ideas I have now are as exciting as dreaming of adventure or fiber arts travel.

This blog tour post is to celebrate a few of Donna's special upcoming events (information below) but it's also to celebrate Donna's big wedding anniversary and her trip to Hawaii. She's currently having a tropical adventure right about now!

To celebrate, I'm giving away a signed copy of Fiber Gathering! I want to encourage some more vicarious travel. If you'd like to win a copy of the book, please leave a comment, and I'll do a random drawing on Sunday, January 24th. Make sure I have a way to contact you via your blog, email address, or some kind of smoke signal if you'd like to win!

Here's information about Donna's new book:
Successful Lace Knitting by Donna Druchunas will be released in May on the Musk Ox & Glaciers Knitting Cruise, where Donna will be teaching along with Lucy Neatby. The audio book edition of Arctic Lace will also be published at the same time, so cruise participants will be among the first to have a chance to see (and hear!) these two new releases.

To enter to win 2 balls of laceweight qiviut yarn, sign up for the cruise mailing list here:

Musk Ox & Glaciers Knitting Cruise

Finally, if you don't need a signed copy of Fiber Gathering, but just want to say hello, that's good, too. Please say hey in the comments and remind me (no book please) not to enter you into the drawing! Thanks!

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

lack of improvement

I'd meant to post about other things but this week's tragedies in Haiti (and beyond) have distracted me. I'm also upset about this man-made harm:

Second Arson Attack at Etz Hayyim Synagogue

and although I am going about my daily life here, weaving and knitting, cooking, editing, writing, and walking dogs...I'm also saddened by this senseless destruction. If you'd like to send a little to help rebuild this congregation that's been targeted by hate in Crete, the information is in the first blog post I did, about the first arson attack...just scroll down a bit.

Later this week, I'll be part of a blog tour with my friend, Donna Druchunas and we'll get back to some happier stories about qiviut, fiber arts, and more. Stay tuned...there will be prizes involved!

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

that's icy cool!

Thanks so much for all the comments on the last post. I appreciate your support very much.
Now, on to a slightly colder topic...
We're having a bit of a heatwave in Winnipeg at the moment. That means--wait for it--it's above 0F most of the time. In fact, it's even threatening to come up to the 20's F. (for Celsius folk, that's -18C to -4C)

The professor and I decided to celebrate by taking a long walk outside. On the river. (Yes, I said, on the'll see. :) First, we parked our car near the Children's Museum and checked out the ice castle. It's a gorgeous piece of sculpture. My professor's comment? "Gosh, what a relief that must be for the ice sculptor people. After all those swans for weddings and bar mitzvahs... Finally, a chance to do something else!"

By the way, if you're wondering, that slightly dirty snow in front of the ice castle is the road. That is what all secondary roads look like. Snowpacked, with a little sand thrown in for traction. Yes, everyone drives on it, and I've only felt my anti-lock brakes kick in once. (It was a surprise, but nicer than fishtailing) Plowing happens here, but not, say, as regularly as it did in upstate New York when we lived there.

Then we headed off to see the river. As a reminder, this is what it looked like in early July, 2008. Note the big concrete buoy thing with the red marker on top and the train in the distance.
Here's what it looks like in January.
The evergreen trees are used to block off hockey playing arenas. (Imagine trees and a hump of snow instead of the "boards" used at a regular hockey arena.) There are actual red lines drawn on the ice here--and we saw a dad and teenager playing hockey together when we went by.
The ice is cleared of snow by bobcats and then conditioned for skating by a Zamboni. Here's a picture of one of the workers going by on his equipment. (and, this is how thick the ice is, equipment just boogies around like it weighs nothing...)
The professor and I were walking along a snow packed trail alongside the skating area. The trail we were on was on the ice as well, but just not cleared of snow the way the skating trail is cleared. We wore our regular winter boots. Here I am, prepared for the adventure. Although the high yesterday was roughly 20F (-6C), it was more like 12F(-11C) with a stiff breeze while we were outdoors.
The professor took most of these photos, as I couldn't manage the camera without taking off my mittens. Also, the digital camera had to be stored inside of my professor's parka in order to stay warm enough to use it. (note all that knitwear..two pairs handknit mittens, two handknit hats--one inside the other, a handknit sweater, and handknit socks. I was prepared.)

The skaters sailed by. We saw people putting on their skates at warming huts, whizzing by, and enjoying the day. I'm not quite good enough on my skates yet to attempt this, but hope to be soon.

You can see the lights along the trail there, for evening skating. By the way, this man and his dog were having an incredibly fun time. The dog loved it! I can't imagine that Harry, Sally or I would ever be coordinated enough to do this. I would be desperately afraid of hurting them with my skates.
On our way back to the car, we walked by the Forks. We saw this amazing little ice playground set up for kids. One part of it was even a slide! Hop on in your snowsuit and have your mom push you down the slide...
(and people say there's no reason to visit Winnipeg in the winter time! Whatever do they often does one get to walk on a river or two?)

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

rearing its ugly head

You may remember that back in September, I posted about a special congregation in Crete that I visited named Etz Hayyim.
I just heard that this historic synagogue was the victim of a hate crime. Here's the link to the article:

Greek Synagogue Suffers Arson Attack.

There is a way to support the congregation online here. I am also looking into how one might be able to send a smaller contribution, if that is possible. (I'll explain that here if I can figure it out.) It seems like a good way of supporting an important historic religious place and showing that good people can stand up against hate.

Update: Here's what I've found out:
In North America, checks may be sent to...
International Survey of Jewish Monuments
Attn: Sam Gruber
PO Box 210
118 Julian Place
Syracuse, NY 13210
Please be sure to note on your checks that it is for Etz Hayyim Synagogue in Hania.

The ISJM is a registered charity (for more information you can see their site
Photos of some of the destruction can also be seen on this site here.

One thing I've realized since moving is how much I censored myself (even on my blog) when I lived in Kentucky. I had many awkward moments - but not hateful ones- and ignorant comments directed my way while I lived there. Those awkward things might be expected in a place that wasn't always worldly or diverse. That wasn't any kind of hate act, but it was sometimes hard to cope with on a daily basis. In order to avoid embarrassment of others, I tried not to bring up things that caused these misunderstandings.

I also got some scary hate mail and phone calls which were more serious. In part, it was because I wrote occasionally on religious topics in newspapers and other publications. In part, it was because I was different, with different religious beliefs, politics, or values. Some people thought it was ok to say intentionally cruel and inappropriate things on the basis of that difference.

This was a difficulty for me in my work life. Did I choose not to speak or write about certain topics (for instance, Religion, despite the fact that I'd gotten a graduate degree in Religious Studies) to avoid this kind of non-constructive feedback?

Sadly, over time, that's what I ended up doing...I chose to write on mainly "safe" topics. I've become more reserved and careful generally because of this, I used to be much more open. I also carried around a constant tension that I found hard to explain. I always wanted to believe that good people, religious (or non-religious) people, did not do cruel or hateful things intentionally. Also, those same good people (I hoped) would not stand by as others chose to do such things. It was sometimes hard to reconcile what I wanted to believe with the things that happened. I will rely here on one incident here as an example...but sad to say, there were others.

(I am purposely being vague here--and will try as hard as I can not to give specifics, as I have reason to believe that may only cause more harm. I am even avoiding key words that would draw additional attention.)

Since moving to Winnipeg, I am much more relaxed. This a diverse place--it's also a very tolerant and inclusive place. In fact, I've even had teenagers here ask me to describe what some of these anti-Jewish experiences were like! These kids couldn't imagine being the only "different person" in their school class or on their block because of their religion,race or ethnic background. How lucky, I thought, to be raised in a place where one only reads or watches movies about hate. How surprising.

Telling stories about any kind of hate can be sensationalist. It can glorify the wrong things. So, I try to celebrate the good stuff (and good people) as much as I can.

So, I know about this spiritually rich and historic congregation. It's hidden on a back street in a part of Hania in Crete. When you sit in one of the pews, you get a beautiful feeling of serenity and peace. Check out the links, if you get a chance, and read a bit about my visits there. If you feel so inclined, maybe you can help monetarily support their recovery from an arson attack.

Thanks for helping me speak out against hate.

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Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Big big loom

My loom. With Harry the dog, of course, as he always wants to be in the picture.
The story? Well, I'll start at the beginning. When I was a kid, about 12, I took weaving lessons to weave my own tallis for my bat mitzvah. It was an important religious experience and a good way to learn about weaving.
My dad also took lessons with me, and in time, we bought a Herald Loom. (this link is just to a photo I found online. Our loom was light colored wood but roughly the same size or larger.) The floor loom we bought was 48" across, and I could barely reach the treadles and throw the shuttle to weave. The front breast beam was higher than my appropriate parts. I'd stretch to make it work, and everyone hoped I'd grow.

Two things happened. First, I didn't grow. Not at all. I am still that same size! Second, I managed to come down with mononucleosis. (and no, I didn't get it from kissing, but rather from eating off wooden plates that hadn't been adequately washed.) I was really sick, and that horrible feeling rubbed off on my weaving experience. I no longer wanted to weave.

My dad kept the loom and wove a couple more projects. Then my younger brothers complained at how much space it took up in the play room and we sold it. All this happened roughly 24 years ago.

In the last few years, I've thought about weaving several times, but never felt particularly motivated. New looms were expensive and used looms were often advertised in pieces. I was afraid that I lacked the skills to assemble anything from a pile of pieces. It all takes up a lot of room in one's house, too.

Since moving to Manitoba, I'd been thinking about weaving more. I'd met lots of weavers here, and I started to remember how much I liked the physical act of treadling and throwing the shuttle. (and how much I hated warping the loom.) A friend assured me that a loom would appear, at the right price, when I was ready.

Surprise! In the afternoon, on New Year's Eve, I went to see a loom with my friend. She knew the seller and promised it was likely to be in good condition. It was in great condition, and it wasn't too big for me to use. Before I knew it, I was purchasing a Nilus Leclerc jack loom, 45", with a bench, bobbin winder, warping board, shuttles, lease sticks, reference books, and lots more for about $450 Canadian. The older lady who sold it is moving to an apartment near her children, and can't bring it with her. (For reference a new loom like this--without all the other gear--sells for something in the range of $2500.)

My friend helped take this loom apart in pieces. When it looked too heavy for me to manage, we called in my husband, the professor, to help haul. The two of them brought it out of the seller's basement, put it in my car, and then hauled it from the car, across the backyard, and into the house. Then it was up the stairs to the second floor. My friend put it together for me quickly, and was on her way.

There was a handspun warp on the loom, and I went deep into the recesses of my memory to figure out what to do with it. I had to sley the heddles and put it through the reed. I had to tie the warp onto the front of the loom and start weaving. With email support from my local weaver friend and a far away weaving teacher friend....I was off to the races.

At one point, when I told the professor all the questions I had, he said if it were him, he would wait and not touch anything until my friend had time to come over and help again. I picked up a book or two, emailed specific questions, and experimented until I got it going.

It's my first practice weaving, so it won't be perfect. That said, I've already done about 15" of weaving and I'm enjoying it. What I like best?

I am literally tied to the last owner of this loom. Her gorgeous gray wool handspun singles warp the loom as my first practice weaving. My weft (the horizontal yarn) is my dark gray Romney handspun. Not only is it my handspun yarn, but I knew the sheep who grew this wool, and I was at its shearing! I have a physical connection to weavers past through this warp, and a stake in the sheep and spinning of today, and hope to weave on to the future this time around.

Today is my birthday, and I am celebrating quietly, with the notion that this weaving, this handspun warp and weft, will continue to pull me into the future without losing any mooring to the past, either.

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