The last few days have been spent in a glacial and seemingly futile struggle to get my TC-2 jacquard loom threaded. Threading the TC-2 is not easy, even with a simple warp. With three warps threaded off three sets of lease sticks, the word “nightmare” seems appropriate. It’s also very slow. So when I lost part of the cross (which keeps the threads in the correct order) this morning, I glared at the loom, said some very bad words, and stomped off.
Keeping momentum can be a huge challenge for long projects, particularly if there are parts you don’t particularly enjoy. But there are ways to sustain interest. I cover many of them in my book (which is due out around the end of summer this year), but basically it boils down to breaking the tasks into pieces, celebrating the completion of each piece, figuring out ways to enjoy the process, and interleaving the tedious bits with more interesting ones. I’m using every one of those tricks (and more) to keep momentum on the threading – I have well over 20 hours of threading to go, according to my calculations, so I really need to keep focus.
So how am I keeping momentum on this warp?
First, I’ve broken the warp out into chunks so I can feel like I’m making progress. I thread in groups of 150 threads or so, which takes me 60-90 minutes. I have a Post-It on the loom with a box for every group of 150 threads, and I check off the groups as I go. This seems silly but isn’t: it reassures me that I’m making progress, and that this *@##! process will end eventually.
Second, I’m trying to celebrate each section. After each group of 150 threads, I go do something fun for awhile.
Third, I’m working on ways to make the process more enjoyable. I’m taking two tacks: making it more interesting by looking for ways to improve/smooth out the process, and rewarding myself during the threading by listening to interesting podcasts. In particular, I’ve been listening to quite a few TED talks. They are perfect for threading because they are about 20 minutes long – long enough to be interesting but brief enough that I can listen to an entire talk even in a short threading session. (The end of a talk is also a reminder to take a stretch break!) And I often find the talks inspirational, especially the ones about creative work.
And, fourth, I’m doing my best to interleave the threading with other interesting projects. Which brings me to another project: dyeing a full set of dye samples using Cibacron F fiber-reactive dyes. I have a pretty good palette of samples for acid dyes on silk, but almost no samples for fiber-reactive dyes (on either cotton or silk). So I’ve ordered 500 10 gram skeins of cotton yarn from Test Fabrics, and am going to dye samples until I feel I’ve got a good palette. Ideally, I’d dye nearly 1,000 samples to cover the entire color range, but I’m not sure I have that much motivation: dyeing samples is time-consuming, and eventually you hit the point of diminishing returns. Fortunately, my weaving buddy Alfred has volunteered to wind the samples onto cards (keeping one set of cards for himself, of course) so all I need to do is the dyeing.
Those two projects, however, are a sideline to my main project for the next few weeks: figuring out what I want to do with my life. Or rather, figuring out how I plan to earn money to support my artwork. I had planned to do some relatively mundane things, but some of the TED talks have inspired me to look for more interesting ideas first. So for the next two weeks or so, my focus will be on figuring out the things I enjoy doing, the things I’m good at, and the things I can make money at, looking for an interesting intersection. This is nervewracking but also exciting. The fear of leaving the familiar and comfortable is balanced against the anticipation of wonderful things to come.