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.
Our kind and patient realtor probably thought we were a little crazy when we asked her to help us buy this house. It's old, worn, and needs a lot of work. But we loved it immediately. This place started as a two room farmhouse at some point in the late 1800s. In the 1940s they added the rest of the rooms, including a second floor loft with ceilings just over six feet high. Then in the 70s, when the acreage around it was to become Jordan Lake, the whole house was picked up and moved to its current location. As the story goes, it was a rainy, muddy day when the truck brought the house here and it pulled up with the house parallel to the road. Instead of waiting for conditions to dry up and the house to be properly oriented, the owners just set it down and the house has been crooked every since.
When I first stepped through the door two years ago, I was struck by a comforting, familiar smell that felt like home. Logically, I know that the smell is most likely dust or mildew, but at that moment it smelled exactly like my great-aunt's pantry and I was reminded of summers in rural South Carolina. The whole house is wooden floors, wooden walls, wooden ceilings. To my husband the sculptor and carpenter, he sees this house as his lifelong work of art. Almost every weekend he's at the hardware store early in the morning to get whatever he needs for his current project. Last year, he replaced one of our aging exterior doors and discovered that the framing had been made with a rough-hewn piece of pine and handmade nails. I wonder about the people who built this house almost 150 years ago, who sat in the room I am sitting in now. Sometimes, on the second floor, the lights will flicker or music will turn on or off by itself. I like to think there's a ghost living up there, one of the original owners of this house. I'd like to think that they are proud of what this little place has become and all the love that has been put into it and that will continue to pour in.