Sunday, March 1, 2009


In 2005, before I owned my TC-1, while writing The Woven Pixel, I visited Alice and after working on the book all day with her, I wove in the evenings on her TC-1, and produced a series of four weavings, Postcards 1 - 4. Prior to coming, I prepared my warp at home by painting a warp using natural dye extracts developed by Michele Wipplinger. When I tied my warp to Alice's warp, I interspersed thin stripes of yarn that I had previously braided and dyed with indigo. All the weavings were done in a lampas structure, but Postcard-3, pictured above, was also brocaded on the loom. This is one of the advantages of a hand jacquard, that you can do manipulations like brocading or weft ikat that you can not normally do on a fully electronic jacquard loom. Postcard-3 is an apt introduction to this post on reading since it lists my favorite books from that year, still some of my favorite reading of all time. If you haven't read The Beak of the Finch or Michael Pollan's Botany of Desire or Second Nature, I highly recommend them.   

I like to read series of books, and some, like the Narnia series, I read every few years and still find them thrilling. Characters fill my head, become intimate friends, or enemies, and when I come to the end, I inevitably feel sad. Some of the current popular books, where a new one shows up each year, start to irritate me with their formulaic manner and I stop reading them. This happened to me with the Outlander series, but it reminded me of Mazo de la Roche's Jalna series, which take you through 100 years of the Whiteoak family in sixteen books. These are not 1000 pages each--in dire need of an editor, but very manageable swift reads, which often meant starting in the late afternoon and staying up all night to finish. Lucky for me, the Kimball Library in Randolph had most of the books, and were able to do inter-library loan for the few they don't own. I wasn't even sure if these books really existed, but I had a memory of reading them as a child, and the Internet proved that they did exist. On reading them I realize I must have been in high school, or at least junior high, when I first read them. They are definitely not children's books. And the characters are abundantly unpleasant. At the end I could not identify one of them, not one, that I liked. There were moments of course that I had sympathy for some of them, and always I wanted to keep going, to read to the end, but I am glad to say that no one I know is as thoroughly detestable as this family--self-centered, manipulative, shallow. Perhaps that is the appeal, that de la Roche did allow her fantasy family to have all the bad traits and bad luck we sometimes find in ourselves and in our lives. 

The Kimball Library hosts reading groups and I have been following the current one, The Never Setting Sun, which includes these books: A Passage to India, Things Fall Apart, Ake: The Years of Childhood, and Our Sister Killjoy. So far I have read the first three, though I missed the first discussion and will miss the next one. In other words, I have attended one discussion so far, my only foray into book groups. I did meet some interesting people, so I will go back when I can.

My other constant reading is The New Yorker. When we were leaving New Mexico, I let that and my Netflixs subscription run out. In September The New Yorker began arriving in our current mailbox. It is a bit like having north, south, east and west fixed again. I read them from cover to cover so I am always way behind, and partially read magazines can be found in every room of the house. Anyone who reads The New Yorker, or listens to NPR, immediately knows that I am a fan of both, since practically everything I say is a quote from one or the other.

My weaving, Postcard-2, shown below, is a quote, not from either of those places, but from the great Vipassana teacher, S.N. Goenka. Somehow it reminds me of my friend, Karen Benjamin, a wonderful tapestry weaver in New Mexico. We used to go for long walks together, which I really miss, and have inspiring conversations about being content, or rather, why we (i.e., all americans) are never content. So I wove Goenkaji's words as a reminder to myself: "Life as it is, Not as you want it to be."

Finally, to the weaving. The additional warp ends led to a bit of brocading. Not too much, just an accent amount.


  1. I love when two of my favorite things come together. In this case, fabric and books! Brings back a memory of my first weaving class. Sandra Brownlee was teaching it and on the first day she gave out a reading list of her favorite books. I remember thinking "This is awesome! I'm going to like her." I'm sure I still have it.

  2. Books, fabric, and thinking of a long walk with a good friend and meaningful conversation... doesn't get any better. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts here, bhakti.