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Add a Mirror to Your Studio Space to Reduce Shoulder Tension

Add a Mirror to Your Studio Space to Reduce Shoulder Tension

Happy 2021! 

Since more of us were staying at home last year, some of us have overindulged our enjoyment of fibre to keep us happy during confinement. Whether you are wet felting, dry felting, damp felting, spinning or weaving, if you continue having fun too long without breaks, someone will get annoyed with you. Sometimes it’s your neck or your hands and wrists or your back. Sometimes you catch yourself slouching or sometimes you hear about it from your body later.

There was a question online about muscle pain from needle felting. It got me thinking about work.  I do miss work.  I was an RMT. I spent many happy years chatting with grumpy muscles and they’re usually less grumpy owners. Most of those 25 years were with people who worked in high tech. There were lots of shoulder, neck, back, arms and some low back complaints. Felters and other fibres artists often have the same areas yelling at them. After having a thorough chat with their muscles (a therapeutic massage), I would send them back to work with homework.  I gave stretches for specific muscle groups and often suggestions to help with spatial or time awareness. (Your RMT or PT can tell you which stretches to focus on from what they find during your assessment)

Pain is the body trying to get your attention. it’s trying to tell you something; often to request you stop doing what you were enjoying doing. If you read one of my textbooks (the red one, by Kessler, Management of Common Musculoskeletal Disorders. another of my memorable textbooks was called Myofascial pain and Dysfunction by Travel.) Dr. Kessler has some interesting insight into pain. He suggests you can suspect if it is a nerve pain or a muscle pain by the way a patient describes it. Each has its own vocabulary. Nerves tend to be; “sharp,” “stabbing,”  “lancing,” “searing”, but can also be “numbing”, “freezing”, “burning”, “chilling”. While muscle vocabulary tends towards; “aches,” “stiff,” “tight,” “hard,” “weak”.

 

Here is the cover of Kessler’s Textbook, In case you are really curious and want to read about this too.

While this seems to be a large vocabulary, it is not nearly as helpful as the body hopes. You get the message quite clearly but the interpretation of what exactly is the problem and sometimes finding out who sent it can be a challenge. With some pain, the spot you are feeling it, may not be the muscle that started the yelling. You may be feeling levator scapula yelling but it may have been the upper trapezius that started it or the other way around!

I have an odd way of looking at physiology but patients seem to have understood the analogy.

The brain is very good at ignoring the daily mumbles and complaints of the body. You spent years at school sitting and taking notes to practice ignoring your muscles.  The brain will often tell the muscle “I’m busy, call back later”. The muscle can be put off for a bit, eventually to get their complaint heard by the brain, will have to increase the volume or scope of their complaint and keep calling back. The brain will eventually answer and be surprised to hear the muscles are so angry!  If you can catch the muscle annoyance (tension) before it wants revenge, adjust your posture and maybe take a quick stretch break, you will be able to keep doing what you were enjoying for longer!

Unfortunately, when Levator scapula and Upper traps particularly are involved, it can be hard to be aware that they are misbehaving before you get yelled or screamed at. One way to catch them is to use a Mirror. Position The Mirror so you can clearly see how you are sitting or standing to work and the distance between your shoulders and your ears. (while you work, shoulders will often try to drift up and foreword.)  

(Mr. Mer, has been trying to build up his Quads and hasn’t notice his shoulders are elevated.)

Ask your shoulders, “shoulders are you being good?”

They will answer, “Yes of course we are!”

Do not believe them and check the mirror. Drat! They’re gossiping with the ears again!! When the muscles have been annoyed for an extended period of time telling the shoulders to go down directly often is unsuccessful.

The Shoulders says, “You put me here, so this must be the right spot!” and refuse to go any lower.

If it is true that they have grievously lied to you and they are up visiting the ears again… tell them to go up, just a bit, to get their attention.  Hold that position for a moment, then tell them to drop. (relax them as much as is comfortable)

Mr Mer’s shoulder are up towards his missing ears and refuse to go down when asked.
Mr Mer pushes his shoulders up just enough to get there attention and holds them for a few seconds
Mr Mer relaxes his shoulders and lets them fall lower than they were when he was working.

Shoulders will be shocked and apologetic!

Exclaiming, “We are sorry and will never do it again!”  

Be patient with them, realizing they have severe short-term memory issues and will likely be gossiping with the ears again soon.  (you don’t have Alzheimer’s, just your shoulders)

Finally, tell them to slowly roll backwards in as large a circle as is comfortable. (You do not have to practice rolling forward since most of what we do is in front of us). You can roll one shoulder at a time or both together. Whichever feels comfortable. 

Rolling his shoulders backwards was hard for Mr Mer since he was balancing on his tail and finn

 Since they tend to be less than trustworthy when asked directly if they are visiting the ears, check on them visually in the mirror regularly.  If you spot them drifting up or forward try another shoulder lift and drop, then backwards roll to remind them to behave.

As the shoulders drift up and forward (elevation and protraction) you can have compression of the nerves in the front of the shoulders. This can produce symptoms of numbness, tingling, weakness, and decreased Range of Motion in the shoulder arm and hand (depending on what part of the nerve bundle is getting squished). So check your posture and position occasionally while felting/spinning/weaving using your mirror.  

Door mirrors usually go on sale in August and September for students going off to school. They are inexpensive and can be propped up against a wall or if the wall isn’t in a convenient spot a chair will do. As long as you can see yourself, while you work, felting, spinning or weaving, the mirror is in the correct spot. By glancing over occasionally, you can check up on your position and adjust yourself.

Also, watch for the height of your work surface, which can add to muscle irritability if it is too high or too low.

Time:  Another factor is how long you are working. If your project allows you to stop and start it will be easier on your body.  I used to suggest a cassette tape recorder and a half-hour cassette of your favourite music to work to. When you hear the loud click at the end of the side or realize there is no music it’s time to get up and go flip over the tape.  Another trick for remembering to take breaks was drinking liquids (not too much coffee or you will be awake all night!) the Brain is very good at ignoring muscles until they are extremely displeased but it will always answer the phone if the bladder calls! Personally, ice tea is very effective.  Sometimes you don’t even have to drink it, just look at it and the bladder gets nervous.

Mirrors can also be used to look at your work and give yourself a different perspective on your piece. If you are debating a composition or are not quite sure it’s right, It allows you to check your proportions when the image is reversed.

Last thing to think about; the smaller the muscle group used the quicker it will fatigue. So try to avoid tiny finger movements if you can use your hand, arm or shoulder. Sometimes fine motor detail is all that will work but try to do little micro-breaks to keep them from fatiguing or intersperse them with larger muscles working.

I hope this will give you a tool to help reduce tension and let you keep having fun longer so we can have a fabulous new year!

Mr. Mer gets back to work with his shoulders much more relaxed.
A Long Wait for a Large Loom

A Long Wait for a Large Loom

There are many advantages to a guild such as the support and comradery of like-minded people who share an interest or passion in something. Sharing knowledge; whether in a library or through the members sharing their ideas or teaching. The pooling of resources to acquire equipment to be shared amongst the group that individual members either can’t afford or do not have space for.

Ann and I belong to the same guild here in Ottawa, Canada. It’s old as far as Canadian guilds go; having started as a group run through the Ottawa Civil Service Recreation Association from 1943 to 1946. In 1949 a few of their members went to a weaving conference.  When they returned home they decided to  start their own guild and became the Ottawa Valley Weavers guild. They eventually added “and Spinners” to their name. I joined in 1987 or 1988, becoming their new Librarian at my first meeting. (I did clearly warn them about the severe dyslexia but they didn’t think that would at all be a problem). So I started my guild career in  a closet, under the stairs, with the library. The guild was meeting down the hall in an old gymnasium at Devonshire Public School.  Ann joined a bit later.  By then I and the library were living in a different closet. She kindly decided to join me to help with the library. The library team eventually grew to Ann, Mary and I, but still in a closet with the books.

 1 Devonshire Public School (we were in the lower level with the closet under the stairs and the old gymnasium.)

For many years, the guild did not have a space to house equipment but always yearned to do so. We kept the shared equipment we did have in various members basements including a borrowed 90 inch loom (before my time), then a purchased, second hand 100-inch loom. The Library has sample binders from projects made on both of these.

Our 100-inch loom was second hand when we acquired it. It had moved multiple times, coming to rest for many years in one member’s basement.  It was used for many projects, mostly blankets and coverlets. If you have not seen one they are big looms.  It takes 2 people to weave on it.  This one was becoming more and more temperamental in its old age it took a large team to get the warp on. Warps were long to accommodate multiple blankets on the same threading. The treadling and colours would change between coverlets depending on what the weaver wanted.  Occasionally, between one coverlet and the next the loom would require readjusting of the tension. At this point the loom was functional but just a bit grumpy occasionally.

In 2003 the guild received a grant that allowed us to move into a space in Heartwood House (an umbrella group for many charity’s and the OVWSG) to set up our long dreamed of studio and house the library. The 100-inch loom as well as other floor and table looms left members basements and arrived in our new space.

2 Heartwood house.

 3 Our new home in the basement of Heartwood house, with the 100-inch loom warped and ready to go! The loom was often in use since it was much easier to get into the guild studio and use it.

4-7 Weavers work in pairs and weave 2 blankets. It takes two weavers weaving at once to make each blanket so they weave one for each of them. 2002

We moved to various rooms in the basement,  taking the looms with us.  In 2009 we made another move, this time going upstairs to one of the large classrooms which had large windows. We had to pick up and move all our guild stuff; the wheels, the library and the all the looms including the 100-inch up the stairs to the new space. All that moving was worth it since we now had a wall of windows and lots of bright light!

8-12 Upstairs in the light warping team in February 2009

After 10 years the building Heartwood house was renting was sold out from under them.  All the charity’s and us were on the move again. It took quite a bit of looking but finally a new location was found. We all moved to a building that once was a Giant Tiger Store with a small attached mall. Ann S., another member, headed up the design team that designed a purpose built studio space with a kitchenette, the library, and all the looms (wheels were moved to a storage closet down the hall.)

13 Moving Out of old Heartwood House! 2013

14-15 Moving into new Heartwood house (a lot of those boxes are the library!) 2013

 16-22 Weaving in the Studio 2014

After being in the space for a while, it was found to be a bit tight, so a classroom space was rented upstairs and the 100-inch loom moved yet again.

 23-24 Moved to the Classroom Nov-Dec 2014

The classroom originally was divided,  having a second smaller room where the loom was put, but we had the partition wall removed to create one big space. The space had carpet originally but we eventually upgraded to laminate in hopes we could have felting workshops upstairs and for easier clean up under the loom.

 25-27 This is the weaving draft for the coverlets. Here you can see tying on a new warp to the old. This is used to keep from rethreading the heddles or to save an expensive warp from being loom waste.  It is the second use as a dummy warp this time. 06-29-2015

28 Special guest in the studio (gratuitous lamb photo) Ann has the best living room decor!! Everyone enjoys when she shares and brings one of her bottle lambs to the studio.

  29-31 Our loom is getting more finicky to put the warp on the loom. 06 2016

32 They are adjusting heddles and leveling harnesses before threading the next warp. 7-4-16 (you can see the wall is gone so its easier to warp the loom. (Well relatively easier))

 33-34 You can see the treadle patter and more of the classroom. Aug 2016.

 35-36 Overshot is a weave structure with a distinctive 45-degree angle to the pattern. It is starting to show that the tension is not even and there are problems with the loom.

 37-38 The weavers are having to argue with the loom to stay square and get the correct angle. Weaving has become slower. 2018

By this point in its life, it was not keeping tension well and I think there were problems with the brake. A grant request was put in to acquire a more functional user friendly new 100 inch loom from Leclerc (an old Canadian company that has made looms since the beginning of the 1900’s). We wanted a 100-inch loom that was easier to warp, kept tension and did not have brake slippage. Therefore, we put in our grant request and were thrilled when it was accepted. <Weavers Celebrating!!>

The next project the executive undertook was what to do with the old loom. It had been repaired as much as was possible but really was now well beyond its working life so sending it off to another guild to fight with was not an option. They reached out to other provincial guilds and found a few had the same model of loom and could use parts of our old one to refurbish theirs. So the loom was mostly dispersed to upgrade other old looms.

 29-40 The new floor is put in as we prepare for the new loom. July 2019

We cleared the area for the new loom at the end of the classroom. With great excitement we awaited the arrival of the wonderful new loom! And we waited,  and waited, and waited…..

And now I will be horrible and make you wait till next week so you too will find out if it was worth the wait!

in the mean time keep felting! (i am still busy with data analysis of the guild library survey, which is actually lots of fun but keeping me from felting at the moment. i hope to have my part handed off to Ann soon so i can rejoin you in fiber fun!)

Someone send inspiration and help…

Someone send inspiration and help…

I recently moved from London to Edinburgh. When asked why I was moving farther north by my baffled English friends, I couldn’t resist telling them it was because England just wasn’t cold enough for me, nothing but Scottish weather would suffice! Some of them actually believed me…

It’s not easy packing up a whole life and its contents, but having a work studio mixed with the personal makes things even harder. Once almost your whole life is safely hidden in boxes, only half the work is done – the unpacking, deciding where everything goes, both in the domestic and business front, is hard work. I’ve been at it for two weeks already and my new place still isn’t finished!

Feel free to be horrified by the mess and judge me, I can’t hear you.

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This was the lovely blank slate I had to work with. The ceiling is very high (typical of early 1900’s flats around here), the wood floor is real and the fireplace works. Happy sigh.
(Now comes the cringe-y part)

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It looks like a hurricane passed by, I know. I think I panicked and simply started to take things out of boxes before I had any inkling where anything should go. I kept coming back to the room, standing in the middle and staring at everything, having no idea how to organise my precious stuff. This went on for days!

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After a few days of this my brain seemed to finally awake and I’m now finally able to see where I want most things to be, and I’ve started arranging my fibre slowly.

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I also got one of those adjustable tables that lets me use the computer whilst standing; I’ve yet to use my chair!

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My sewing table is now tucked into the window nook, affording me a little view of the sea and the stunning cloud formations above it. Inspiration might strike more often from now on with all this weather drama…

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I promise my floor is now a lot more bare of items, and I’ve finally figured out where certain pieces of furniture will go. Once it’s all done I’ll even have a knitting chair near the fireplace, so I’m feeling very happy indeed.

Let me know if you’d like to see the finished studio, I’m happy to share.

Have you moved recently? Share your experiences with me so I know I’m not alone in dreading the sight of a moving van or two in the near future…

 

 

 

Member’s Studios – Messy, Chaotic or Clean?

Member’s Studios – Messy, Chaotic or Clean?

Recently I posted a photo of my messy studio room on my personal blog Permutations in Fiber.  One of our regular forum members and a guest blogger here, Karen L., suggested that she would love to see a post about other forum members work areas. She thought it would be great to see how others used their spaces and whether or not they worked in a chaotic mode like I do or kept things nice and neat. I also think that most of the studio photos you see in magazines and online are really not the way most studios look. These types of photos look like “House Beautiful” or “Architectural Digest”. Do people really work in these studios? So this post is about real, working creative spaces. Maybe it isn’t a studio but just a corner in the house or wherever has worked out for creating fiber art. You can click on most of the photos to enlarge and see all the details.

Here’s the photo of my studio (actually when I look at it looks pretty tidy for me). I am working on a variety of paper collages here. There are several in various stages of completion.

And here are two more photos that show various stages of chaos when I’m creating. I do clean up occasionally but most of the time, I have stuff all over the place. And the room is pretty filled to capacity. I need a bigger space but then I end up using the living room, the kitchen, outside when it’s nice…

This photo is Ann’s (shepherdess) creative space. It actually looks pretty clean to me but she says it is messy. Ann wrote a post about her new space in 2015. You can see more of her studio in that post here. 

Marilyn (Pandagirl) has several different spaces that she uses for creating. Her work table is on the left, upstairs storage in the center and her “paper” room on the right.

This is Tracey’s space with supplies set up for stitching. And look at those yummy colors of roving hanging up behind her machine.

And here is Lyn’s work space. She wasn’t going to send any photos at first because she keeps her space neat and she thought I only wanted chaotic photos. She always tidies up after a project so she has a clean slate when she starts a new one. My table has not been that empty in years. Even when I do clean up, there is stuff that lives on the table. I am impressed Lyn 😉

And you might think, like mother, like daughter. But Lyn’s daughter Annie sent this photo of her work table. She said “Here is my current project on the go.  I’m gradually getting more stuff out as I’m testing different fabrics and colours etc on my picture trying to find the right bits.  I reduced the size of my crafting table down to about a third recently but it’s clearly not working.  A bit like getting a smaller handbag but stuffing it full! I will have a big clear up soon though before it gets really messy again during the next projects. I have recently had a big tidy up so the most of the room is not tooooo bad at the mo but it certainly ain’t one of those glossy mag rooms!”

Here’s a photo of Carole’s (akaCraftyWoman) space. Somehow, everyone’s spaces feel much tidier than mine. Even my floor is usually piled with stuff.

Lyndsay kindly sent these photos of her work space. She says it’s a bit cleaner than it normally is and “who knew I had so many pool noodles?”

Last but not least, these are Karen’s photos of her creative work space. So much to look at!

I hope you all enjoyed getting a glimpse into the creative lives and spaces of some of our forum members. I know I did, I want to get an even closer look and peer into all the storage areas to see all the yummy fibers and take a closer look at all the samples, artwork and works in progress. It’s such fun picturing our fiber friends in their spaces creating masterpieces!

 

 

 

 

 

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