Lately, this house has seemed like a burden. The maintenance and improvement projects are expensive, time-consuming, and never-ending. My initial infatuation with all the charm is starting to fade and I'm coming to the realization that we bought a very old fixer-upper. The roof still leaks, the crawlspace is damp and needs to be sealed, and a piece of plywood has been serving as a kitchen island for the last 6 months. Do I regret buying this house? Well, sorta. Sometimes. With so many projects that were either half-finished or unattainable, James and I needed something to make us feel like we hadn't made a huge mistake. So we focused on one of the smallest rooms in the house: the closet.
When we moved in, the master closet was not a welcoming place. Two of the walls were covered in lead paint, the other two were simply sheets of OSB, the floor was covered in a rough-cut piece of greenish carpeting, and mismatched wire shelving was thrown up half-heartedly. For the past two years we've treated the room like a black hole where things are thrown in, the door is shut, and nothing ever comes out. So, the first step was going through each item and deciding what would end up in the renovated closet. I started out tentatively (see my previous post about how I love collecting...), but then I got ruthless and it felt great. The next day, the local thrift shop ended up with several boxes bursting with clothing and accessories.
With the closet emptied, the fun part began: demolition. The old shelving and carpet was removed and immediately trashed. This closet used to be part of a bathroom so there were some holes in the floor and wall where pipes had once been. James cut new boards and fit them perfectly into the holes. Next, the OSB walls were removed and drywall was put in its place. A couple coats of white paint were put on all the walls and some polyurethane was put on the floor to freshen up the space. It was finally starting to look like a room with purpose. For the shelving, a custom fitted Elfa system from The Container Store held what remained from the great clothing purge.
Now, the closet isn't just a place where old sweatshirts go to die. It's a reminder that somewhat simple changes can have a great impact in my daily routine. We can actually complete a home renovation project. My kitchen utensils are still sitting in a bin in my living room and will be there for a while longer, but my dresses and sweaters are hung in a beautifully finished room. Do I regret buying this house? No. Not right now, at least.
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.