Twelve feet by sixteen feet, leaning slightly to one side, no heat or AC, but it has electricity. Originally, it was built as a shed for hogs to sleep in at night. On one wall there is a cutout large enough for a healthy-sized hog to come through. Along the floorboards and some of the walls are evidence of where the hogs would scratch their backs or paw at the floor. There are still old fence posts and hooks for the barbed wire that encircled their pen. Now I spend my time rooting around, pawing away at projects and slowly realizing my dream of having a home workshop.
When we first moved into our house, the hog hutch was filled with the previous owner’s stuff. A hog hadn’t lived there in about 30 years and the previous owner used the hutch for storage and occasional tasks. A lot had amassed in that shop over those years and the previous owner opted to leave much of the contents behind when he left. If you read our previous post or have ever seen our house, you know we don’t shy away from a collection of stuff that may possibly hold some treasures. Once we took ownership I began the slow process of cleaning out the space. The yard is continually spotted with piles of junk thrown out from the shop as I work my way through all of the various boxes and tins. Each nook and cranny was stuffed with jars of nails, boxes of paints, or old electrical equipment that is in a half-state of repair.
In the past few months I have finally cleared the space enough to start working. I have learned a great deal about working in a small space by maximizing space usage. There is still a lot to be done before this old hog hutch can be a proper workshop, but it’s definitely a one-of-a-kind shop. I hope to use this space not only to help with my never ending home renovation projects, but also for the creation of sculptures and furniture.
Like a goldfish, my husband and I will expand to fill the space we are given. Four years ago, James arrived on a cold January evening to move into my one-bedroom apartment with all of his belongings packed comfortably in the back of his pickup truck. Now that we live in a house with more than three times the amount of space as that apartment and one acre of land around it, we have amassed a surprising amount of things. Maybe it’s our artist mentality. Every little thing, even unidentifiable junk, could potentially be used for a piece of art. Yet, realistically, very little of that junk ever does actually get put to use, unless you count our various piles as pieces of modern assemblage art.
Thank goodness that my husband can build furniture because my worst collecting offense is books. Despite the space saving options of ebooks and audiobooks, I can’t resist the appeal of a printed book. Every few years, James has to build another bookcase to keep up with the never-ending stacks of books that take over the surfaces in our house. Most of these books I’ve already read, but I find it difficult to get rid of a book. Sometimes, when rereading a book at a later time, I find a very different story.
For James, his collecting habit is focused around tools, especially hammers. I had no idea there were so many different kinds of hammers until I met this guy. In his own words, it’s a fundamental tool that has existed since we first discovered tools and has been developed over the years into the plethora of options we have today. They are the purest extensions of a laborer. Each hammer tells its own story with the marks it has collected from the jobs it has done.
Together, we also collect odd and unusual objects that catch our eye. These little pieces are what make our house a home. Recently, a college friend of ours came to visit our house for the first time and said “Yeah, this looks like a place y’all would live.” We are two weird people in a weird house full of weird things.
To make a scarf that is 60 inches long and 10 inches wide, you need 380 yards of carpet warp yarn, cut into 120 individual strands each measuring 114 inches. Each of these 120 strands is then fed through an individual space in a 12-dent reed and then each of those is threaded through the eye on a heddle on one of four harnesses. And that’s just the warp, or the vertical portion. The weft, the horizontal, is another set of calculations. If you want to dye your warp or weft yourself, treat it with ikat, paint it, or do any other special treatment, then there’s several more steps before you even get to the loom.
I love weaving. It’s tedious, time-consuming, involves lots of math, and leaves little room for error, but I think those are some of its good points. The creation of your own textiles, at least for me, is all about the process. Counting out hundreds of threads and making sure that each is placed in just the right spot on the loom has a calming effect. Like yoga or other ancient forms of physical training, the repetition of certain movements and habits can center the mind and bring comfort. When I’m sitting down to weave, I let my mind clear and focus on the feeling of my yarn between my fingers as I throw the shuttle back and forth, or the sound of the harnesses as they move up and down with each step on the treadles.
Working as a web developer, I have developed a love/hate relationship with technology. Some of it is great, like my automatic cat feeder that lets me sleep in instead of being woken up by a hungry cat. Other inventions, such as the automatic flush toilet, make my life more stressful than streamlined (I’ll tell you when I’m done, toilet!). Coming home to my old farmhouse and sitting down at my loom is a release from all the technology that surrounds me. Looms are, in themselves, a great technology, but there’s no screens, no electronics, and no wifi involved. Just wood, steel, and cotton. My progress is clearly visible and the results are always interesting.