Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Toilets in Ossining

I dunno maybe a month ago
on my drive to work
I saw two toilets
sorta facing each other
one like... a sickly greenish yellow
and one a horrifying chalky pink
and they... really spoke to me

I dunno why

just sitting by the side of the road
sorta tete-a-tete
out for garbage

and then I forgot about it
and every day I'd see them
for a week
and forget as soon as I drove past

after a few days one was knocked down
and a little broken
and that was sad
and then a little later they were gone

and I thought 'I wish i'd taken their photo that first day'


and then just recently
I looked closer at the house
and realized they had never gotten picked up
just pushed back down the driveway against the house
both knocked over


just laying there

and for some reason it feels... like a sad story
but I don't' know why

I keep thinking maybe i'll draw them
and paint the awful colors
as like... a remembrance

I mean someone picked them out
a long time ago
specifically because they wanted those colors, I mean
it's a CHOICE to get those sort of toilets
and then... one day.... just discarded
and then without even the dignity of getting carted away proper
just pushed to the side and left

It tugs my heartstrings in a strange way
I can't explain it.

I've always attributed personalities and emotions to objects
I guess it's just... an old childhood habit

So when people just throw things away sometimes I feel sad for them.

The things.

 I originally sent this strange prose/poetry out to a select friends and family in late March, and my friend Heather Stoll wrote this back to me. It feels like a companion piece, and she gave me permission to post it here. Read below.

Grammy had a bathroom
off the master bedroom
pink tiles
pink towels
pink rug
pink sink
pink toilet
it may even have
smelled a little like rosewater

When I slept over Grammy’s sometimes
she would draw me a pink bubble bath that smelled of roses and she always said draw instead of run
The rooms in Grammy’s house were all one color and there was a yellow bathroom that Grammy said was in the other wing
Auntie Helen used, who was Grammy’s sister and lived in Neewe Yalk City but for summers 
I still think the pink one was the best

The bank came and took the house
A funny turn of phrase as the house still stands
Grammy moved to a rental house and then another and still yet another
Maybe twenty five years have passed since then

Two pots side by side, one pink one yellow speak to me
Like two old Irish twin sisters, born a year apart
Who grew to be old ladies
They whisper secrets from long ago
Husbands long gone
Children grown or never had
Bickering like girls sometimes
90 years of lives entwined
I like that they were forgotten by the house where they hide
Like the two little girls they once were

I like that she took what felt sad to me, and transformed it into a happy story. Funny how something as simple as two abandoned toilets could bring such stories to life.
Thank you Heather.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Sock Potholder Rug

Sometimes the blog is just the right thing for the job.

I wanted to post about a project I finished recently.

Remember making those little potholders out of pre-made 'loopers' back in daycamp or school or whenever? Maybe you didn't make one yourself, but you surely recognize them.

Well I went through a sock-monkey making craze a few years back, enough so that I saved all socks with holes in the heels and toes for a long time. So I had two boxes of gently used clean socks.

What to do with them?

Turns out you can make a pretty handy rug. Start with a bunch of socks and flatten them out. You can cut as many loops as you want from a used sock, but I usually cut them roughly 1/4" wide. I cut as I went, but you could also spend a day just cutting socks and throwing them into a bag or box and using them later. I decided against using wool because of shrinkage worries. I also didn't use sheers. It's all personal preference I suppose.

I didn't have one of those plastic frames, and I didn't want to go buy one (for one thing it might break or bend, they're usually cheap plastic or metal, and for another thing I am always trying to be frugal). I took a piece of scrap wood from the basement, some finishing nails, looked up a few handmade frames online and made my own, approximately 8" square. Yes there was measuring and a square and pencil marks and a few mistakes. Measure twice, hammer once!

This is a picture of one in progress. As you can see it's pretty simple. Lay one direction flat for your warp, then weave your wefts starting at one side and moving down to the other side.
It was very peaceful making little weavings during television or while relaxing after work. And there's just something about stacking up little squares and comparing and playing with color and form that really tickled me.

Here are a few things I discovered through trial and error:

*Don't use the tighter elastic part of the upper cuff if there is any
*Cut as close to the toe as you can, leaving only minimal fabric unusable for loops
*Same for the heel, do your best to get as much as you can out of each sock
*Pick a type and try to stick to it. I mixed and matched a bunch of hemp socks with cotton and acrylic socks and it made for a better blend than all one type. Every square was made on the same loom, but the all acrylic ones ended up tiny, and the all hemp or cotton ones ended up huge. In the end I preferred a mix within each square.
*Acrylic patterned socks are the easiest to work with. They don't make as much 'sock fluff' when you cut, and they're very comfortable. Plain white sports socks leave a lot of fluff and they don't have nearly the same amount as elasticity. They do however, have a softer, tougher feel.
*It will shed, a lot. Sock fluff gets everywhere. Everywhere. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Here's a finished one ready to close off. Closing off is easy, just loop each one through it's neighbor until you get to the final loop. I pulled that back through the original loop and then just made sure to stitch them together when it was time to make the final rug. (If you don't somehow catch that last hanging loop you run into the danger of it unravelling. Here's hoping I didn't miss any!)

After you make a number of these, you can stitch them together. I imagine you could leave the loops free by running a ribbon or yarn through them all and then loop each square together, but I didn't do it that way. Instead I took the remnants of an old torn sheet and cut it into long strips. I rolled them into a ball just so it was easier to keep track of them. Then I took an oversized leather needle and stitched each loop to its friend (husband assisted in selecting which one would go where). By using all grey for the stitching I gave the rug a uniformity of color, though I chose to leave the edges wonky and natural. I also opted to just weave each piece back into the rug instead of leaving lots of knots everywhere.

Here's the finished rug. Very... handmade. But lovable all the same I think.
As you can see it got fairly wonky. And look at how different the sizes are! I made each and every one on that same wooden loom. Turns out elasticity and the materials that went into each sock really changed how the squares worked. There's a red and white one near the top right corner, about two in and four down. That one has some of that upper calf elastic in it, which is why it scrunched on one side. Avoid that stuff unless you actually want to encourage it to get all wiggly. The square on the bottom left, one in is a bit peach and blue. That one is mostly made up of those cheap super soft socks that cause me to skid all over the house. Not much elastic in them and those squares got really big (they also shed little bits of puff like crazy).

Ta da! Not the clearest tutorial, but honestly the in between steps are pretty self explanatory I think. And there are almost infinite resources online on how to weave one yourself.

Note: You can also make your own loopers from t-shirts and other such scrap fabric. I haven't tried that yet. I still have tons of leftover socks and they are already the right width and stretch.

Some sources of inspiration for this project:

Warp and Weft and Color Gamps. I liked experimenting with counting and getting patterns: http://www.weavezine.com/content/potholder-loom-basics-and-beyond#gamp

Pretty sure this is where I got the idea to use the socks for this in the first place: http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/diy-sock-potholdersaving-the-w-57221