Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy Birthday to me....

New Year's Babies have been around longer than I have (click on the link to see just how long). However, as is often the case, I didn't get it quite right, arriving on the morning of New Year's Eve instead. So technically, I'm an Old Year's Baby. Oh well...

This should brighten things up a bit:

It's the warp I'll be winding on the back beam and threading through the heddles as soon as this post is finished. A version of these 8 harness twill towels were on the cover of Handwoven Jan. 2006. My warp colors are a bit different. And my weft color will be purple rather than the brown used in the magazine towels.

Although it's a gloomy, grey day, it has been a lovely birthday. I received a lot of music (cd's), a beautiful water color w/ calligraphy (thank you, carol), a pizelle iron with recipe(s), and Italian nougat Christmas candies (thank you, Janice..aka sis). As soon as the weather dries up a bit, I'll make a batch of pizelles to show you here.

Hmm...now that I look the warp picture again it reminds me of "ribbon candy":


Another Christmas treat I haven't seen in a quite a few years. (Ahem...that's how I got the pizelle iron and the Italian nougats...giggle)

Happy New Year, everyone!!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Breach of Friendship...

Last night I realized that in the mad dash to our household Christmas chaos, I forgot to send birthday wishes to someone very special to me.

Happy belated birthday, Mary. Wishing you many, many more.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Ornaments from Jackie and Traversing Thin Ice

These arrived in the mail a couple weeks ago, but holiday preparations got in the way of sharing them on the blog..

They are exquisitely folded fabric. And I believe the fabric is hand dyed (if not, it sure looks it.) Here's a close up of the lighter colored one:



Thank you, Jackie. They are lovely!



We safely traversed the thin ice of: too many family members, too close together, for too much time with out long term adverse effects. It appears that we provided the holiday celebration they were hoping to experience.

The 4 day event got off to a rocky start when one person arrived with a sore throat and fresh prescription of zithromax. The third car with my nephews was on it's way from Philadelphia...making it's way slowly because the older nephew with a bout of the stomach flu, required a visit at most turnpike rest stops along the way. They arrived after a 12 hour drive dehydrated and not stable in the digestive department. So we spent the rest of Christmas Eve eve making runs (no pun intended) for Immodium, Gatorade, and Vernors (for the "traditional" Michigan stomach cure) and then on the phone back and forth with urgent care. The mother of both sick cousins is a nurse...the nurse to nurse phone conversations got a little tense and terse. Inauspicious beginnings....

At this point, I was very glad that we reserved two motel rooms for part of the lot of the guests. Visions of a strep and dysentary epidemic were dancing through my head. After we got everyone shipped off to their respective beds, I scrubbed down the main floor bathroom, door knobs, etc. with bleach and threw all of the hand towels on the first floor in the wash.

Christmas Eve dawned and things proceeded smoothly from there. In addition to putting food on the table at regular intervals, I passed out decongestant, ibuprofen, and Chloraseptic throat strips upon request. Everything else is a blur. My husband was a trooper and a Godsend. He took over the kitchen for awhile on Christmas afternoon to set out a buffet lunch while I crashed on our bed for a half hour. Then he got everyone to the basement family room to watch Shrek 2 while I assembled Christmas dinner.

So the two of us are in recuperation mode. Now I have visions of new warps dancing in my head. Time to pull out the cones of 8/2's cotton assembled weeks ago for kitchen decor enhancing dish towels. Tomorrow I will be winding a multicolor, striped warp.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The "Twelve Meals of Christmas" and the meaning of blogging....

Just spent most of the day shopping for "The Twelve Meals of Christmas". Do the math: 8 houseguests + (4 day visit * 3 squares per day) = 12 meals of Christmas. Everything is purchased and planned. However, I've decided to wait until Friday or very early Saturday to finish purchasing the fresh produce needed.

The deal stands with the dh: I will sling the hash, but he will have to be the 'cruise director'. This year we will be living the sequel to Griswold Family Christmas

Sheila was looking for fruitcake recipes earlier. I was tempted to join her, since I am a fruitcake fan (now you may be asking: why didn't that show up in the weird things about me post?) but this year I'm afraid the brandy would never make it near the cake. Best for me to find a good group of Friars or Brothers (or whatever) and buy a tin of fruitcake!

And as if there aren't enough rhetorical questions floating around in the universe, here's a new one to ponder: what happens to your blogs when you die? Go read it and find out....

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Go read Judy's Christmas story now.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

6 Weird Things About Me Me-me....

I've been tagged for this me-me by Leigh

1. There's nothing weird about me....it's the rest of you that have the weird quirks. Really...that was my first reaction.

2. Well...there is that thing I have about doors: Either open them all the way or close them (preferably latched). Nothing grates like a half open door or drawer. But there is a reason: after working in a residential school for blind children and seeing a blind child walk into the edge of half open door that someone carelessly left hanging out in the hallway, one recognizes that doors should be open or shut, period.

3. As I lie in bed, there are 3 doors on the wall facing me: the entrance to the room, the bathroom door, and the door to the walk-in closet. Any guesses about the last thing I do before climbing into bed?

4. My sense of humor. It goes over the head of quite few people, or they 'get it' after I've walked away. See #3.

5. I'm a pretty private person and am often amazed at: a.) the assumptions people make about me. b.) that people take it personally (and sometimes with hostility)when I don't choose to share my personal thoughts or feelings with them.

6. I don't mind being a group leader, but I hate being the center of attention, and especially hate surprise parties and surprise visits. IMO Surprise parties are the epitome of passive agressive behavior:
Examples:
a. my husband and I had a small wedding with only immediate family. This drove my Mom crazy, she wanted to throw a shower for me with extended family members who were not invited to the wedding. I told her I wouldn't come...I didn't, she did...they had a wedding shower without me.
b. I was on bedrest the last weeks of my pregnancy w/ my son. After 3 weeks of bedrest our dear friends asked if I couldn't at least come over to their house for brunch one Sunday. I reluctantly agreed that perhaps we could come for lunch but I would have to keep my feet elevated. I trusted these people. As it turned out, my water broke the night before, we rushed to the hospital, my son was born 5 wweks premature at 12:15 PM on Sunday. My husband called our friends from the recovery room, to offer our regrets....there were 35 people there for a baby shower, waiting for us to arrive. They had the baby shower without us.
Moral of the story....if you try to throw a surprise event for me, count on it to backfire.

Now...I'm supposed to tag six people...hmmm....
Tell you what, if you want to be tagged for this, leave a message in the comments and I'll tag you. That way you're not surprised, and I'd be happy to tag the willing.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Feeling Edgy



Above is the Print O' the Wave Stole from Eunny's free patterns.

As you can see, I am busy knitting the interminable triangles around the perimeter of the stole with only about 1/4 of the edging completed. This has been one of the most joyless pieces of knitting in memory for me. So in my midwinter solstice, sado-masochistic state I'm determined to not knit on anything else until this is finished. Finished will be defined by knitting only, blocking will be another project by my terms and definitions.

There are a number of reasons this project has been joyless. A few have to do with the technical aspects of knitting:
- it's a dark color yarn for lace. Something I was aware of, but I do like the deep jewel toned teal yarn.
- although I like the appearance of the shawl, the pattern is interminably repetitive. (yawn)
- the main chart in the pattern is annoying. There is a bold line at the 10 stitch mark, then a red line marking the edge vs. the center repeat of the pattern. A defect that would fool my eye repeatedly until I could "read" the knitting and ignore that black bold line.
- the border is knit onto the stole with the body of the shawl on the right hand side when the right side of the shawl is facing you. This might sit well with a left handed knitter, but is just annoying to me.
- there is an error in the edging pattern that took me a week to figure out and correct.

But I've come to the conclusion that there's more to the joylessness than just the technical aspects. I started this shawl in July of this year. From the beginning of May, life in this household has been in tumult and full of uncertainty. I believe there is something about handwork that absorbs and reflects back the emotional state of the artisan.

I remember when a friend was spending time in waiting rooms while her daughter was undergoing treatment for a severe psychiatric disorder. She would only work on items that would be donated to charity. Her reason was if she worked on garments for her family or her home, every time she saw them she would be transported back to those dismal waiting rooms.

Another friend was with me when my stepfather died unexpectedly. We had a 6 hour drive shortly after where she put down the shawl that she had been working on and picked up a child's sweater she was knitting for charity. She wanted to finish the shawl and didn't want to be reminded of the sad occassion everytime she handled it thereafter.

There seems to be some of that going on with this shawl. Usually knitting is an enjoyable and relaxing activity for me....the rhythm of the repetitive movement, the feel and smell of the yarn, and watching the fabric below the needles grow are pleasures to enjoy.....something like chocolate. But this shawl has been more like....brussel sprouts. I like brussel sprouts well enough: on occassion, in small quantities, and with butter. But brussel sprouts are bitter and knitting this shawl has been one long diet of brussel sprouts.

So I'm feeling edgy right now as we wait to see how these changes in our lives are going to turn out.

Add to that the fact that eight of my inlaws are descending upon us for the Christmas holiday. These are people who tend to melt down after a 4-5 hour family get together. I can't wait to see what they do while spending 96 hours in close proximity....with 72 of them under my roof. Perhaps I'll include brussel sprouts in at least one of the meals!

So here are my conclusions regarding this stole:
- There are a number of works in progress that I haven't touched since last spring. That was probably a good thing and I will be able to return to them with joy in the new year.
- Once this stole is finished, I will work on charity knitting until things are brighter and more certain.
- I will make no hasty judgements about the disposition of Print O' the Wave...it was originally to be for me. We'll see if I care to keep it after it is set aside for awhile.

And I will dream about the red swallowtail shawl that I want to knit and own. It will be a victory shawl that commemorates the good health we've achieved in this household by eating our brussel sprouts!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Walk With Me Wednesday

With due credit to Smatterings here's a post of my Wednesday walk.

I've mentioned before that I walk in our township park. In the summer I have to get up very early in order to have it mostly to myself. But this time of year I, and a few others like me, get to reclaim it for ourselves. In the same way, the wild nooks and crannies expand to reclaim the park once the sprayscape shuts down; the baseball diamonds lie fallow; and it's too cold, wet, and nasty for the playscape.

Here's the fishpond. The ducks and a family of muskrats have been busy in the pond on most of my walks, but they're keeping to themselves today. The weather is about to change, which probably explains their quiet.


A close up of spent featherbells:



The sledding hill is ready for the first accumulation of snow (which might be Friday!):





Reminds me of that song: "Signs, signs, everywhere signs....".

I ask you, what is sledding if not horseplay?!

Growing up in the Chestnut Ridge area of Pennsylvania, every alleyway around the perimeter of town became a sledding hill. And there were no rules, much to the chagrin of Mrs. Schaeffer whose house used to sit at base of the best sledding hill in West Derry. There wasn't a kid in that town who hadn't banged their sled into the stone foundation of that home....right next to her wooden back steps.

Here in SE Michigan, people drive (!?!) up to 15 miles to find a sledding hill. Only to arrive and find rules! And boundaries:



And while looking forward to the arrival of that first blanket of snow, we are reminded of picnics past:



Thanks for walking with me.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Vertigo...


This morning I woke up with a weird case of vertigo which seems to be related to a bad combination of my inner ears and Michigan weather. My day has been divided into almost equal portions of sleeping and spinning. With these disturbing sensations of being disoriented in space, it seems best to stay close to the ground, so I've been spinning a my support spindle.

This is the day's accomplishment:

Last week Ted did a couple of blog entries on spindle spinning. I'm a fairly accomplished spinner on the wheel, but my introduction to spindle spinning was with pencil roving and a boat anchor drop spindle before quickly jumping to the wheel. As a result, my spindle spinning skills remained undeveloped.

For some reason, the time for spindle spinning has arrived in my life. Not in an acquisitive way, where one goes on ebay and buys every spindle that catches one's fancy. If there's any acquisition involved, it's more likely to be an acquisition of skill.

I like the technical aspect of spinning, even though I'm not a "treadle counter" and "length of draft" measurer. There's great pleasure to be found in selecting the right method for preparing the fiber. Then deciding which drafting style to use and deciding the diameter and twist of the yarn for it's intended use. Keeping notes and records and swatches all together for reference as the project progresses helps to keep me focused on the end product.

In both knitting and weaving, there is cross over from those involved in manufacturing to those involved in the handcraft. I've never come across that as a spinner. Surely there must be a textile engineer out there who has mastered the spindle or the wheel. But I've never come across one. Curious, isn't it?

This cotton/silk sliver has been in my stash for years. I've spun some of it on each of my 3 wheels. Some of that yarn became the pattern weft in a summer and winter woven sampler. But I've never really liked the yarn that came from the wheels.

Today those colors of a summer sunset were such a pleasure to slowly draft, insert twist, and wind onto the spindle in a quiet meditative way. The pace of life was slowed to something more manageable. Spindle spinning is not about production, it's about process. With no end product in mind, the quality of the thread spoke for itself as I wound it onto the spindle.

One could do worse than to live a strand of their life between the pinch of the twist and the wind onto the spindle.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Best Quote I've Heard all Week...

Listening to the Splendid Table this noon I heard this interview of Danny Meyer. He said the most striking thing:

"Hospitality consists of passing on the four things we recieve at birth: a smile, eye contact, a hug, and nourishing food."

What a simple and profound statement. Something to think about as we dig our heels in and head into the holiday season.

His focus of: "Your guests will seldom remember what you served, but they will remember the experience of the meal and how it made them feel." is similar to the words of my friend Mary, an elementary school teacher: "They won't always remember what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel."

I've already been to our library website and reserved his book. Now for the challenge of applying the sentiments.

Wishing all who read here a blessed Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Just looking around...

Thanks for the encouraging comments on the last post. Nothing on the tube tonight so I decided to surf YouTube. Here are some clips you might enjoy.

First of all, if you use "handspinning" as your search term on YouTube you get some unexpected results. But there's some fun things there too. Take a look at Blood, Sweat & Wool. Then there's the strange and weird Wool Boy.

I thought I was a fast knitter until Fast Knitting.

While we're on the subject of speed take a look at: Speed Weaving. After seeing this I've decided that my technique needs some work.

And This Little Lamb would probably tell you that speed is not always a good thing.

Finishing with a bit of history, you can watch Mrs. Helen Madrell card and spin wool in a film clip from 1938 on the Isle of Man. When you look at this clip, think about it: in 1938 she had no idea that people around the world would be sitting watching her 68 years later. I've never been able to get the back of the cards to roll a rolag like that. Her style of handling the wool suggest she's spinning in the grease to me.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

why do I do this...and why would anyone care.

You can tell by my lack of entries over the last months that blogging has lost it's luster. Life had been busy and topsy-turvy which has been a distraction from the fiber, and I'm not one to put my personal life in a private journal let alone a world wide web blog.

Matters personal and public vary for different people. My last entry is as personal as I care to get with others....even in person. Yet, there have been times in the past couple weeks when people, whom I come close to considering enemies, have told me things I would find hard to tell my doctor.

Sometimes I feel like my personality has this big blindspot when it comes to other people. My perception is that I'm being open,accepting, and generous...then wham, someone shows up with a dumptruck and dumps a load on me, letting me know just how selfish, insensitive, arrogant, and clueless I really am. How do you respond to that? I've reached the stage of life where my response is: "Yep, you're probably right." and walk away.

But here's the kicker....these very same people come back and act like nothing has happened. The only explanation I can come up with is: they've dumped their load and now they feel better. So what if someone else is left standing in their pile of .......

Last week was one of the most interesting weeks of my life. It began with an Elder's meeting at church where we took 40 minutes to decide the best way to introduce the new worship books at church. But it only took about 16 seconds to determine that we were keeping the Lord's Prayer with the "thee's and thou's". I marveled on this as I walked away from that meeting. None of us speak with thee's and thou's in the rest of our language, but we are attached to that language from our earliest prayer.

Next came a discussion in another group I'm involved with about how to place two Chinese ladies, who barely speak English, in a women's group in order to be encouraging and inviting to them. Not coming from Chinese culture, we decided to keep them together and pair them with a woman who lived in China for 4 years on a corporate transfer. The feedback we got later is that the Chinese culture in general is very "relational" and this was probably the best way to handle the situation. So far so good on that decision.

Wednesday was the dump truck day referred to above.

Then on Thursday, I was invited to attend the Jewish Women's book and author luncheon which was fabulous. Before the luncheon, the two women who co-chaired the event said the blessing for the meal in Hebrew (I couldn't help but think of clinging to my "thee's and thou's" earlier in the week.) The authors were fabulous speakers (which is not often the case) and all had personal connections to the Holocaust. Sadly the date of this event was the 68th anniversary of Kristallknacht. The solemnity of that event I understood...but some (not all) of the Jewish humor went right past me.

Friday was a huge Synod event at our church to kick off the introduction of the new worship book (AKA hymnal) at our church. Now, our church is in a "white bread" sort of community. But the SE MI region was represented and about 30% of those in attendance were African American. Wow, what a service!! The homily was given by an African American man from Detroit based on the passage from Luke where Christ is telling the apostles, "the kingdom of heaven is like...." The title for the homily was "Songs in the Key of Life" (due credit to Stevie Wonder was given). The church was transformed. I remember at one point looking over at the choir while they were 'getting down', and there was one of our elderly, white haired, spinster choir ladies with high color in her cheeks as she swayed and clapped from side to side. It was like being on the set for Sister Act. There was an enormous sense of love and affection present. And when we said the Lord's prayer there were "Heavenly Father" and "Our Father" and "your and you" along with "thee and thou" and it was all good.

Jump to Monday night and an interfaith bible study as we looked at Joshua and Judges and tried to make sense of Holy War in Old Testament times and today. It was heartening to sit and listen to people wrestle with their faith and try to reconcile themselves with God and man and war. I believe that there is no true faith unless there is struggle....one doesn't just simply have faith, one has to wrestle and come to terms with the meaning of their faith in a world that challenges it every step of the way. And there must be a surrender...a surrender of one's human will for the betterment of others and to the glory of God.

So, what have I learned this week?
- That heritage and culture run deep within our veins.
- We must learn to keep what is meaningful to us while respecting and trying to understand what is meaningful to others.
- That sharing is important.
- That we would do well to search for what unifies us rather than what divides us.
- That Wikipedia has no entry for Kristallknacht, so I requested one.
- That there's a great Peace History calendar which I bookmarked.
- That our church can hold a lot more sounds of joy than I ever imagined.
- That it's okay if I haven't been doing much knitting, spinning, or weaving.



And tomorrow I have a meeting with the lady with the dumptruck. Think I'll go get my shovel. (Maybe I get along better with people outside my culture?)

Friday, November 10, 2006

I Couldn't Make This Stuff UP, Part II.....

Last week I ordered this sweater online. It looked like a nice, modest sweater to get "cleaned up" in. Now we all know that the necklines this year have plunged to new depths, but look at the picture. Modest, no?

The sweater arrived via UPS. I tried it on. The fit is very good, but for a gal whom "Hidden Valley" means more than a salad dressing, it was too revealing. There's no way I could do anything but stand up ramrod straight and maintain my dignity in this sweater.

So I headed to the store to buy myself one of these:

I figured a nice little band of lace across the expanse would meet my requirements for modesty.

It was a warm sunny day (one of the few these past 6 weeks) so I headed out in a cotton long sleeve T-top. Upon arriving in the lingerie section all of the camisoles were hanging from these little posts sticking out from the wall....5 tiers of them. I browsed through the display at eye level and below, and these sizes were all for women who barely need a bra.

I need a bra. In fact, I need a relatively substantial bra, with underwires, for garments to fit well.

So I looked up. There on the tippy top two tiers were the 38+ camisoles. The store is somewhat lacking in customer service (aren't they all these days?) So I leaned forward on tippy toe to reach up and grasp a size that might fit.

As I was up on my toes, lifting and reaching, I felt something catch in my middle front. It was one of those display hooks at the lower level and it hooked front and center under the band of my underwire bra. Startled, I lowered my heels back to the floor which gave that hook a better purchase and it tugged my bra up over "the girls".

There I stood in the middle of the store at 10:00 AM looking like the four boobed monster under my T-shirt. The dressing room in lingerie is locked, with a sign telling me to go across the sales floor to Misses Wear.

Every other day in the past week I would have at least had a coat on. I just decided to stand facing the camisoles with my back to the sales floor and try to get everything back in proper position. It was then I noticed the little metal reacher they had tucked away in the corner of the display....grrr.

Shortly thereafter another woman, around my age and with similar fit problems came up to the camisoles and looked up at where her size would be. She looked at me and said, "Now why do they always put my size way out of reach." I looked at her and said, "For entertainment." I told her what happened and she laughed 'til tears came. I handed her the reacher.

BTW, a camisole works very nicely under the sweater. I wore it yesterday.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Selected Short Subjects:

There's been a certain lack of focus in my life lately, so I decided to take on a few quick and simple projects. There's nothing like a finished project to spur one on to the next finish line.

So here we have the Braided Cable Scarf designed by Miriam Felton. The yarn in use is handspun Icelandic spun (by me) from roving about a year ago. It's about halfway to completed length and will have fringe added:


In the "finished" category are these Fetching Fingerless Gloves from the summer issue of Knitty. The yarn is Galway. The color on my monitor is pretty accurate as a peachy-pink.


I'd like to design a hat to match the fingerless gloves. It wouldn't take much effort and would use up the rest of the yarn.

Another short subject is a completed skein of Cormo laceweight yarn: 2 ply, 32 WPI, 450 yd. skein. The yarn was spun from mini-combed locks with a semi-worsted drafting style. It was dyed with Pro-chem acid dye in 'dull red'. However it is hardly dull...and refused to photograph well with a digital camera. This yarn is destined to be the Swallowtail Shawl (scroll down the linked page) from the Fall Interweave Knits.

It occurs to me that these would be handy gift items for the holiday season. It also occurs to me that if approached that way, completion of these items would happen sometime in the middle of 2010.

Probably the best way to approach these things is to follow the message on this afternoon's Dark Chocolate Dove Promise wrapper: "Don't think about it so much."

I'm still working on the Print of the Wave Stole, the Lace Cardigan, the warp from Bonnie I's workshop. I've washed some more of the grey wool seen in the previous post. And am still thinking about the Wedding Ring Shawl (from Sharon Miller, author of Heirloom Knitting) and whether this is really a good time in my life to be thinking about spinning lots of gossamer yarn to knit something that would be more heirloom than functional in my life.

See?...focus....I need focus.....

Friday, October 27, 2006

Like Potato Chips...

I love processing raw wool. There's something about pulling out a lock, flicking both ends and tieing in the middle that is so satisfying to me. When I decide to wash a crockpot full, I get started making my little wool bundles and I just can't quit. It's like potato chips, I just can't do one (or a dozen...) Here's the pile that I just tossed into the crockpot:


Apologies for the picture quality, I didn't pull out the Ott Lite to balance the incandescent lighting. But you get the idea.

The "white" (which is closer to creamy yellow until that wax comes out) is the very last of the polwarth raw fleece that I bought from Rovings at Soar 2003. The grey is a very fine Corriedale gifted to me by my email pen pal, Carol in NC.

Normally I don't mix breeds in the wash because I want to keep them separate. But since there's color variation, it seemed like a good idea to make the most of the available space in the crock pot.

If you've not seen how I wash fleece in the crock pot, there's tutorial here. It is time consuming and labor intensive, but it gets the wax out of fine fleece and maintains the lock structure for combing or carding. And if you do a little at a time, it's not such a big deal.

Okay...time to head out shopping. Dh's birthday is on Halloween so I need a gift for him. And it's down comforter weather already and we're in need of a new duvet.
So what's for dinner tonight? Probably Chinese carry out....the crockpot's in use. (Just kidding...that crock pot is 30 years old and is designated wool only)

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Not so humble, but funny....

In Michigan we often have very short springs and very long autumns. Tigers in the World Series notwithstanding, this year we have a very short autumn, to the tune of 27 degree this morning.

Yesterday dear son graciously wore the Inishmaan sweater, an AS design I knitted for him a couple years ago. I didn't see him until he walked in the door around 3 PM. I took one look at him and asked, "Why are you wearing your sweater inside out?" He looked down and said, "Hunh....no one else noticed all day. Must be because the inside looks so nice."

(Is he smooth or what?) Anyway...I'll take that as a compliment. At long last I've achieved what my Mom tried to teach me so long ago with embroidery...the back side should be as neat as the front.

However, in the spirit of quit while I'm ahead, I won't be knitting him a fair isle or intarsia sweater any time soon!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Spinning a fine alpaca yarn...

As I mentioned earlier, my sister gifted me with a gorgeous slate grey alpace blanket to spin. Thanks to Michigan grey days, I haven't been able to get a decent picture of the raw fiber. However, those same grey, rainy days gave me a good excuse to stay inside and play with the fiber. There's about 2.5 lbs. of fiber in the blanket. I'm not sure how much to subtract for alpaca before processing since there's no grease, but plenty of dust.

The fiber in the blanket is somewhat variegated from a silver to charcoal. There are dark tips on the longer fibers. Staple length ranges from 3.5-5". The fiber is very soft, I doubt it's "baby alpaca", but I would bet that it's a pretty young animal. The fiber is sound and there is a faint crimp from cut end to about 2" in on the fiber. My guess from the loft of the fiber is that these are huacaya alpaca.

I washed a good handful of the fleece in dish washing liquid, maintaining fiber alignment, then laid them out to dry overnight. The next day I used the Forsyth 2 pitch handcombs and pulled the fiber into sliver from the combs. The yarn was spun on the Schacht Matchless wheel, using scotch tension and a 9:1 ratio whorl. Drafting was worsted, short draw. The singles was plied using the same ratio.

Below is the two ply alpaca yarn before washing. The shank of a T-pin is used for size comparison in the photo. As you can see, it's pretty fine, but I thought it might full out in washing.


Below is the same yarn after washing in warm water and allowed to lay flat to dry. The yarn on the left is commercially spun Alpaca With A Twist - Fino yarn, which is laceweight. I don't see much difference in the grey handspun alpaca from the before washing photo. Without pulling out the McMorran balance, and from comparison with the commercial laceweight yarn, I'd guess that the alpaca yarn is closer to gossamer than laceweight.



And here's what it looks like knitted up in a couple repeats of "Print of the Wave" pattern. The dime is for size comparison. The whole piece is knitted from only two combs full of yarn.



I don't think I'll process the whole 2.5 lbs. like that. But it would only take about 6 oz. spun like this to make enough for a nice stole or shawl.

As is often the case, I like the handspun yarn better than the two different commercial alpaca laceweight yarns I've been knitting with. I'm not saying that my handspun yarn is perfect, but it seems to be more lively and has more character. And that's what keeps me spinning my wheels.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Re-published...

Now that it's officially in print and online, I'll take the risk of publicly stating that one of my designs has been re-published. It's not really a design, more like a gimmick use of inkle weaving. Take a look at Deck the Halls.

Mine is the item number 12. They asked permission to reprint an 8 harness twill Christmas card insert, but it's not in the 15 items pictured. Perhaps it's one of the remaining 5 items in the e-book. Or, perhaps it's not there at all...(shrug).

Since my last entry, I made a whirlwind trip to Pa. to visit my sister, sister-in-law, and other family members. My sister gifted me with a delicious alpaca fleece (tones of grey and very soft) which she obtained when she helped at shearing day on an alpaca farm. I don't know which alpaca farm...but they surely do a nice job with the fiber.

I spent last evening spinning some samples. Pictures to follow, when the samples are dry.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Blog break....

I didn't set out to take a blog-break, but it seems that's what has happened. If one were to compare life to melody, the past few weeks have been sort of like a riff in the jazz of my life. Some harmony, some dissonance, and a lot of notes headed in different directions.

Or, if you can stand another metaphor: the techtonic plates of our lives are shifting and it's going to be interesting to see where things land. Not to worry...nothing seriously bad is happening. Just changes distracting me from fiber, which is really what this blog is supposed to be about. So, let's go there:



Whoa...perhaps this picture is the third metaphor in the series! (sort of reminds me when tv used to go off the air at night!) It's the samples woven during the Big Overshot workshop with Bonnie Inouye

The workshop was heavy on lecture and looking at possibilities. That means there is a lot of warp left on the loom to experiment and continue the learning. Since the workshop, I've spent a fair amount of time Fiberworks PCW playing with tie-ups and treadlings to determine which options I want to weave and which ones are best left in the computer.

Here's the treadling/tie-up I'm working with now:

The pattern is appealing to me, but the pattern weft is too much like the ground fabric, so it's kind of "meh".

Bonnie suggested trying rayon chenille as the tabby with a contrasting pattern thread. The tabby would provide sufficient tie down to prevent the rayon chenille from worming. I definitely want to try that. In the first picture, the purple pattern weft at the bottom of the sample is rayon chenille. Although it didn't worm in the first washing of the sample, it would likely do so if it were in a garment that got wear.

There are so many possibilities in weaving, it's impossible to try them all: threading, treadling, tie-up, warp yarn, weft yarn, pattern yarn..... I'm trying to go about the sampling in a systematic way. Yet it's necessary to manipulate more than one variable with each sample, so I can try different pattern yarns in the different treadlings.

So, I'm headed back to the loom to wrap up National Spinning & Weaving week and will leave you to ponder this:

Does this explain why they call itan aster-isk?

Friday, September 01, 2006

Workshop preparation:


The draft I'm to use for Bonnie's workshop has arrived and it looks like this:



We are to put on a 3-4 yd. warp and this is not a round robin workshop. We will be staying with our own looms for the two days. So I have been thinking carefully about what to use for warp, since I will have to work with it...all of it.

I definitely want to stay in the range of 10/2 cotton or rayon, in order for the samples to have the hand of fabric that I would normally weave and use. 8/2's produces fabric just a tad on the heavy side, unless it's for kitchen towels.

Nave blue was my first thought. It's pretty versatile in working with colors and a dark background shows off pattern so well. But dark yarns are difficult to see, not a good feature when you're at a workshop to learn. It's kind of important to be able to see what the threads are doing. So the navy blue 10/2 pearl cotton went back in the bin to wait for a future project when I know what I'm doing with this technique.

Next I looked at all of my stash yarns which are candidates for the pattern thread since it's an overshot workshop. Most of them would look best with a dark background, but they would work with a medium value of taupe or grey.

Back to rummaging through cones of potential warp yarns. I've finally decided on a medium gray 10/2's rayon, color name is "Dusk".

Click on the link to look at Bonnie's work. Scroll about halfway down the page to see the overshot samples for the coming workshop.

I'll be spending Labor Day weekend warping the loom, sewing, and working outside (washing windows, cleaning out flower beds, and thinking about what bulbs to put in the ground in a few weeks).

Have a lovely, lazy, (alliterative) Labor Day!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Best quote I've heard all week...

"I'm being as nice as my personality will allow."

David Corn of The Nation on Diane Rehm

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Mixed Message...
Earlier this week I received this wonderful, handcrafted shawl pin from Cathy



It is shown here on the in progress Print O' The Wave Stole

A few weeks ago, I mailed Cathy a book by Ivan Doig because he writes in a style I thought she might like. She mailed this as a thank you. It's lovely. No thank you gift was needed, but this one is much appreciated. Thank you, Cathy.

Last Friday was thick and humid, causing me to think I needed a haircut. My usual stylist wasn't in, so I was assigned to a young woman who lived in Vietnam until she was 13, then moved to Missipi (USA) for 10 years, and recently moved to Michigan. I can usually understand most people who have an accent, but I was totally lost with her English with a Vietnamese, deep south accent. I'm not sure which question she asked me that the answer produced this spikey haircut. But this is the best I can do with it. Otherwise...it's straight up and out all over my head.



My hair grows quickly....so I just pretend that there's nothing strange about a head full of cowlicks on a middle aged woman for awhile...

Thursday, August 17, 2006

These days are a sort of 'break your heart' days in Michigan.

Being a temperate zone where winters can be long endurance tests of gray skies, frozen ground, and a range of knee deep snow to ankle deep dirty slush. Summers are short and arrive rapidly on the heels of a brief spring. Summer can produce sweltering, humid, windless days such as we've seen this year.

When moderate days with clear skies present themselves they must be at least noted, and at best, savored.

I am savoring. Last Friday was spent wrestling with the power washer to clean the upstairs balcony, the patio below, and the siding on the house. We are in a dry spell as the sun has moved a notch lower in the sky and the shadows have grown longer. Gardens are thirsty, crickets are singing, and the dragonflies parade themselves through my patio garden. On their vists, they fly by my patio chair and tip their wings, like sporting WWII Flyboys.

The wrens in the sheepy birdhouse are quiet this morning. The past two weeks have been a feeding frenzy as the parents return with grubs and insects. These reconnaisance missions where they return, grub in beak, to light on the east fence. After looking right, left, up and down, they hop to the north fence. Convinced that I am not a threat, they hop to the birdhouse perch where the babies squawk and compete for the food morsel.

Monday morning, I took my oatmeal and green tea to the patio to savor the early morning mood. While watching the wren food-shuttle, the humming bird came to visit the hollyhocks beside of the east fence. Lo and behold, mother wren and humming bird came close to colliding. Mother wren dropped her grub while humming bird dropped altitude and selected a lower bloom. An avian morning rush hour.

Not so much fiber happening as I enjoy these languid days. Today there is some wool scouring in quart jars in the canner. The locks were flicked and bundled some time ago, but the humidity was too high for washing wool.

I've knitted a little on Print of the Wave Stole with some dark blue lace weight Alpaca With A Twist.

I've listened to Judith MacKenzie McCuin on Weavecast (you should too...see button on sidebar).

And I've been reading. Actually the better phrase would be "book bingeing". Take a look at: Reader2 or click the link in the sidebar.

It's been fun reading Leigh's, Sarah's, and Charleen'sBlogs. The links are provided in case you actually want to see some fiber activity in progress.

I'll get back to it. The workshop with Bonnie is coming up. The days are getting shorter. The temperture will cool....and my 'grasshopper days' will be behind me as I return to 'ant level' activity.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

I had some help...


while I was getting ready to scrub down the balcony today. Isn't (s)he pretty? If you check back in the blog, the previous dragonfly was bottle green. This one is rusty red and about half the size.

Fiber stuff:
Today I received the warping instructions for The Big Overshot Workshop. If you check out Bonnie's home page
our workshop is the one listed for Sept. 21-23.

Must go study the instructions and figure out what fiber to use.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

I'm back...

The laundry is piled up. The flower beds need weeding. The patio needs sweeping.

So while I go do that, you go look at this textile video.

Makes me want to run away from home to East Berkshire College.

Friday, August 04, 2006

The End is Near...

Yesterday I had a few minutes before yoga and was browsing Barnes & Noble, first in magazines then I wandered over to craft books. Turns out the same lady who was frantically pulling down the great variety of knitting mags and flipping through them, was in the the craft book section by the time I got there.

When I started skimming through the poorly organized titles which are dominated by knitting, quilting, and beading, she asked me: "Are you a knitter?"

Oh my...I felt like Bill Clinton when I said, "That depends on what you mean by knitter."

It brought her up short for a minute, but instead of trying to find out more, she hurriedly went into her spiel of "how would I like to get 10% of my next knitting purchase?"

She works in a yarn shop about 20 miles from said B&N. Note I said 'works for' not 'owns'. And she's out peddling discount cards to generate business in an area that is well supplied with knitting stores.

Recent stops at my LYS suggest there is an inventory glut. I take these as signs that the buzz is soon to go bust.

I wish my LYS well, but I surely will be glad to see the lemmings pass and knitting return to a skillful activity.

Something else I noticed....a couple of 'knitting books' which are essentially blogs morphed into paper with binding are positioned in the "humor" section of B&N. Like where Erma Bombeck would be (yes, I date myself here). My suspicion is that if these 'writers' are to have any longevity, their humor will turn more generic in the relatively near future. Perhaps a title like: "The Foam Is Always Taller Over the Whole Milk Cappucino Cup".

My apologies for the lack of entries. Life has been busy with a lot of travel. I'm keeping my head above water in the day to day. However, that sort of activity makes for rather boring blogging. If you stop by to read, you deserve better than my checked off "to do" list.

Travel ends soon. Hopefully fiber begins even sooner!

Monday, July 24, 2006

I've been tagged by Catherine

5 things always in my purse:
Always? I've taken to not always carrying a purse in my dotage. So the things that stay in it, even when I leave it behind:
1. Asthma rescue inhaler (I keep an extra one in my pocket when the purse isn't with me).
2. A little Vera Bradley zippered bag w/ lip balm, breath strips, and toothplackers.
3. A small hair brush.
4. A few old pictures of dh and ds.
5. Caribiner clip...to hold keys (so I don't accidentally throw them into collection bins...see Dec. 16, 2005)

5 things always in my wallet:
1. Driver's license
2. Health insurance cards.
3. AAA membership card (road service, etc.)
4. Credit/debit card
5. punch cards for free sandwiches at various local lunch spots.

5 things always in my refrigerator:
(someone hasn't had a college age son living with them...nothing stays in the fridge very long these days!)
1. Skim milk
2. Orange juice w/ calcium
3. Fresh vegetables
4. Fresh fruit
5. Yeast for making bread

5 things alwasy in my closet:
1. Lint brush (cat fur).
2. Tripod for camera
3. Black slacks.
4. Black shoes.
5. Walking shoes.

5 things always in my car:
(I'm assuming you mean other than me.)
1. Insurance info.
2. Emergency kit.
3. Maps...some of them should be archived, but there are maps in there of the places we travel through most often.
4. A box of kleenex
5. A log book to keep track of mileage and gasoline purchases.

5 things always on my desk:
This is the desk in my sewing room. I have another small desk for 'quiet time' work, and the computer set-up is shared in the family room.
1. Dust
2. Account statements that need to be filed. (I hate filing.)
3. Weaving guild membership directory.
4. Two small hand thrown pots: one made by me, the other came from my dh's 150 y.o. farm home.
5. A few small sea shells and a dead piece of coral.

5 People to tag:
1. Cathy
2. Leigh
3. Jackie
4. Kathy
5. Sara

However, I don't think the last two read my blog...but you can go and check out theirs!

Just for kicks: this critter was on the top of a window frame this AM. I couldn't include anything in the shot for size reference, but its head was the size of the tip of my index finger. In my book, that's huge!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Short assigments and first drafts....

Leigh asked me to expand on the concept of first drafts referred to in my previous post. That caused me to pull down Bird by Bird and read through a couple of Anne Lamott's chapters which relate to any creative pursuit. Let me correct myself as a result of this refresher:

Short Assignments comes first. This is the concept that the Bird by Bird title came from. She uses the example of her brother who, as an elementary school student, had a huge assignment on birds which should have been completed over preceding weeks. He was understandably panicked as he sat down to begin the project the night before it was due having no idea where to begin. Anne's father sat down beside him and encouraged him to begin with just one bird: the only way to attack the project was bird by bird.

So a short assignment is one small thing that can be managed in the time available. It can be one small part of a larger project. It's a way to keep from being overwhelmed. It's narrowing the focus. Anne describes using a 1" empty photo frame as a totem when feeling overwhelmed as she sits down to write. She just envisions only writing enough to fill that 1" square.

Short assignment is probably a better way to look at Jeanne Williamson's journal quilts than first drafts. Jeanne set some specific boundaries in terms of:
- the size
- the amount of time to complete
- the format (whole cloth quilting)
Her purpose was to play, experiment, and give herself the time to create at least one small piece per week.
So, those boundaries were the equivalent of Anne's 1" frame.

I'm thinking of doing something like this with weaving. Am still playing around with the parameters in my head. So far, the look something like this:
- the size would be 6"x8" or less.
- the project would be created on some small, portable weaving format. This would include the lap loom from the last post, tablet weaving, frame weaving, Weave-It looms, etc.
- the ground fabric must be some type of woven interlacement. NO knitting.
- completion of the project includes finishing and mounting for presentation (because I am really bad about this).
- because of the immediately preceding rule, each project is allowed two weeks.
- begin this week and continue through the end of the year, at which point the rules and parameters will be re-evaluated.

That means 12 small, experimental projects by the end of the year. (gasp!) Okay.. I need to sleep on this....and forget about the 12 projects statement, reverting back to "Bird by Bird" thinking!

Now, on to First Drafts: I latch onto this concept because I see it happen all the time in myself and others. Having reached adulthood, most of us have a set of skills in which we are fairly competent. We use those skills on a routine basis and have a pretty high set of expectations for the things that we produce.

We forget what it's like to be a child with no previous experience of the task at hand. As a child there is extreme joy to just create something, anything! The fact that the drawing, or pinchpot, or knitted headband exists is cause for great satisfaction. Kids are okay with the quality of those first attempts. And if they enjoy what they are doing, the go back and do it again and again, thereby gaining practice and experience which improves the quality of those things they create.

So when we learn to knit, weave, spin...or whatever...as an adult, we don't give ourselves permission to create something less than perfect. It's okay to have uneven selvedges, a broken warp or two, or unfortunate color choices in a project as long as we learn from them. Too often, as adult crafters, we give up on something because we don't permit ourselves to have what Anne call's "sh*tty first drafts".

This is one of the reasons I hated seeing new knitters getting sucked into those crazy eyelash novelty yarns as their first projects. Yes, anyone can knit a scarf that looks pretty good with those yarns. But then, the new knitter never learns about maintaining an even gauge, or the importance of stitch count in a pattern, or how to deal with the selvege stitches. So they move onto more 'normal' yarns and when their projects reflect this lack of learning, they quit.

So, if I should decide to pursue the plan above, I hereby give myself permission to try some new things and accept the fact that some of them projects not demonstrate perfect execution....they can be "sh*tty first drafts". But I hope I learn something from them all.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Here I am....


We spent the week after Convergence at the North Carolina shore. It was fun, not too hot, we watched July 4th fireworks on the beach, and ate lots and lots of seafood.

This week I've been trying to get my house back in order: literally and mentally.

During the long car ride I read an article about Jeanne Williamson's Weekly Journal Quilts in the summer issue of Quilting Arts magazine. (You may click to go read her artist's statement now, but don't forget to come back!!) I've done some quilting, but don't count myself as a quilter. However the concept of journaling by doing one managebly sized fiberart piece per week has caught my imagination.

Anne Lamott talks a lot about "sh*tty first drafts" in her book Bird by Bird. I'm sure I've blogged about this book before. Although it's directed at writers, it has wonderful suggestions for anyone trying to live a creative life.

I like to swatch, but I don't think they count as the "first draft" concept. And having seen the value of warm-up exercises in music, drawing, and writing classes, I've failed to find the equivalent of warm-up exercises in approaching my fiber stuff. Let's face it, mending is not a warm up exercise for creating great fiber art.

Enter this cute little lap loom, made by Tom Hockett, which I purchased at Convergence (click on the picture to see it larger and clearer.)



I happened to have it and some fancy colored crochet threads along in the car. So I warped it up and started to weave, picking up each alternating shed with a pick-up stick. That was about a thrilling a warm-up exercise as restitching the crotch seam on my ripped out shorts. There had to be a better way. Some sort of shedding device would make things go much better.

As I sat on the beach, staring at the sun, then the moon, drenched waves, I was mentally working over this problem. In the back of my mind I could vaguely see some kind of trinket or gadget that was back home and would help make a shedding device. At 3 AM on Wed. night I woke up knowing that the gadget I was thinking of were my son's old Kinex building set. (Apparently my 7th grade gym teacher was right, fish is brain food. That's the night I had mahi instead of shrimp or scallops.)

So here's the first thing I did when I got home:




Clever little shedding device, no? When it comes to weaving, I think I like the tinkering with the loom as much as creating woven fabric.

I think this little loom would be the perfect device to imitate Jeanne Williamson by doing a series of small pieces to explore fibers, colors, and techniques. There a couple ideas niggling the back of my mind: Tapestry techiniqes, finger manipulated weaves, and needle weaving techniques.

I'm curious to know what you think after you've read and looked over Jeanne's website. Also, if you want more details on the making of the shedding device, let me know.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

cartoon from www.weblogcartoons.com

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.



Bloglines used to have a button to "mark all feeds as read". It seems to have disappeared. After being away just a few days I feel.....overfed.

Convergence was good. Two of my four seminars were well presented and at a level useful to me. The other two were rather basic, and kind of....meh. Fashion show was...interesting. SS&D will have more than enough pictures.

Vendors were....okay. No Mirrix present and Fiberworks PCW were present but without product to take home with you. So I ordered Fiberworks PCW bronze and a manual. Perhaps by the time they arrive I will have time to play with it.

Must go pack for more adventures. Photo's later...maybe.

While I'm away, check out: Tiferet

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Class List...

My classes for Convergence:

The Virtual Vest w/ Leslie Killeen
Timeless Tablet Weaving w/ Inge Dam
A Degree in Twills w/ Cate Buchanan
Grand Lace (Woven) Inspirations w/ Elaine Bradley

Materials List:

notebook/sketchpad
pen/pencil
colored pencils
paper scissors
glue stick
ruler
graph paper

I will also take my camera.

Leigh asked about weaving software: I own WeaveIt Pro, having started with the original release of WeaveIt way back when. Upgrades were purchased at discount as they became available. It's an okay basic weaving program. I have no aspirations of having a computer controlled loom, I like the dance of treadling and throwing the shuttle.

Last year I took the Big Twill Class from Bonnie Innouye who uses Fiberworks PCW extensively as she teaches. This experience gave me a taste for that program. I was impressed with the ease of use, flexibility, and speed of the program. Also the "view fabric" and drawdown screens were easier for me to 'read' the fabric than any of my versions of WeaveIt. I've coveted Fiberworks ever since, but decided to wait 'til Convergence.

Breaking news: Bonnie is coming to our guild in the fall to teach an overshot class. I am looking forward to this (which is also why I need to hold a little cash in reserve from Convergence). Bonnie can be a bit of a task master when teaching a workshop, but I learned more about manipulating tie-ups from her Big Twill workshop than I learned in my previous 24 years of weaving.

Okay...gotta go now. Yoga w/ Karen tonight. Then get my act together for the big C.

While I'm gone, go check in with Danny Gregory. I found Danny through The Curious Weaver.

Danny and his book The Creative License inspired me to get out my sketchbooks and remember the drawing class taken at the Ann Arbor Art Association 10 (gasp!) years ago. Danny will convince you that drawing is an end unto itself and a great way of journaling. Perhaps I'll talk more about drawing and journaling when I get back. Meanwhile...click on over there, pick up a pen, and start looking around. It's one of the best gifts you can give yourself.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Credibility gap...

I realize my credibility from the previous post might be in question since there are no pictures of the finished pants. They're black. I have no confidence in my ability to take a picture modeling a pair of black pants that would give very much visual detail of how they actually fit. I just got in from a meeting and am wearing the pants as I type (and they are very comfy0...does that improve me credibility?

In response to comments on the previous post:

Charleen...yes, that is the crotch depth fitting solution.

Charleen and Cathy: I did not sew the old pants back together. They really do have some threadbare spots and I shouldn't be tempted to wear them. And they make a great pattern in their dissembled state: I use one side front for pants with a zipper on the side and no pocket and the other one for pants with a fly front and side pockets! Anyway, I bought another pair at the same time I bought the corded ones which are in better condition. (If I find something that fits that I really like, I always buy more than one!)

Judy: Yes I should be packing for Convergence...but w/o sewing I'd have nothing to pack. I don't think Convergence security would want me showing up sans pants! (Though the Dutch soccer fans were an inspiration last week!)

A Convergence Aside: I sat down to start making schedules and lists yesterday and discovered that I had a hotel room for the days I was not going to be there...and no motel room for the days I am going to be there!! Made a couple of frantic calls...got cancellations w/o penalty fees, then found a room for the nights I need. Talk about panic attack.

Have checked my class schedules. I don't need a loom or a wheel, but I need a lot of art supplies. Most of the stuff is around here somewhere, just have to gather it up.

On my shopping list: Fiberworks PCW. Also want to check out Mirrix tapestry looms and Treenway silks for a few things.

Time is running short....I must sign off....

Saturday, June 24, 2006

A Fitting Solution:

I have been sewing for a very long time. Not continuously, but in fits and starts. If you've been reading this blog, you know that I am currently in one of those "fits".

Pants fitting has always been a headache. I have the Vogue book of pattern alterations and fitting. I have all the Threads magazine articles on fitting pants (the fact that there are at least two articles per year on this topic is telling). I have made a fitting shell per Palmer and Pletsch. I have Sandra Betzina's book on fitting patterns and her "perfect jeans" pattern.

I have had only moderate success until this week.

In my closet were a favorite pair of pants. A pair that fit so well I have worn them until the bottom hem and top of the waistband were worn threadbare. They are made of a durable corded cotton and are very comfortable.

So it was quite a sacrifice to sit down and take those pants apart, seam by seam, and use them to create the perfect "Valerie-pants" pattern. The cording in the cotton was a bonus because the fabric structure provided obvious grainline markings.

This sacrifice was well worth it and taught me some things that should have been obvious, yet I have never seen in a fitting book or article.

Hips (on me at least) are curves...they are three dimensional curves. Most commercial pants patterns have 2 back darts, with the side seams of the front and back matching perfectly. When you consult all the fitting guru's, they have you play around with the crotch seam, the darts, and the waist seem. Occassionally they may have you add to the side seams, but they never talk about ease.

When I used my dissembled pants for a pattern I learned that the front and the back side seams did not match up perfectly from the waist to the first notch. In addition to a single modest dart, the back pattern piece had a larger curve, which necessitated putting in some ease between the front and back pieces when sewing. DUH!!! It's so obvious and yet it made all the difference in the way the pants fit.

See the drawing below...the back pattern piece is on the right. It is traced from a commercial pattern mock up...the outside curve line at the hip is from my dissembled pants pattern.

Also, the front waist on my favorite pants had a nice curve to it, with the front waist being just a bit lower than the back waist. Now this, I have seen in the fitting suggestions, but am not clear on the reason for its application.

With these changes at the waist and the hip...and no changes in crotch depth or inner thigh depth (which all of the fitting advisors were having me do), I have a beautifully fitted pair of black linen capri pants.

In the past, most of the pants I made had elephant legs because the fabric had to drop straight from the hips (my widest part) because there was no ease at the side hip seam. Every attempt at trying to taper the legs caused gaps and wrinkles higher up. Not so these new pants from old.

One might say that the ease in these pants came from the fabric stretching out over time. I don't think so because the fabric peices, with all of the stitching removed, lie flat. If the fabric had been stretched in that ease area, it wouldn't lie flat.

After this success I'm eyeing everything in my closet to see what other garment might teach me something by being dissembled!

Friday, June 23, 2006

Elements of a Perfect Day
Remember Ernest, who guest blogged for a me a few days ago? I don't think he told you his name, so I will now: Ernest A. Toad. The A. stands for American since he's an American Toad.

Earlier today we were talking and Ernest asked me what my perfect day would look like. Hmmm...I can't tell you exactly what a perfect day would look like. But I can give you a list of the elements that would make up a perfect day for me:

- Waking near sunrise to birdsong and stretching out on fresh bed linens with just lightest scent of lavendar.

- A half hour of quiet devotion time reading devotions or scripture and prayer.

- Fresh blueberries and old fashioned oatmeal for breakfast.

- A walk in the park with temps. in the 70's, a light breeze and just a few clouds in the sky to provide relief from the sun as they blow past in the breeze.

- A half hour of sketching and working in my creative journal, or blogging.

- Checking my Bloglines and finding that Sarah Lamb, Charlene, Cathy, Catherine, and Judy have all posted photo's of their latest fiber projects. And Franklin Habit has posted a Delores cartoon.

- Discovering that someone else has already vacuumed, dusted, cleaned up the bathrooms, and emptied the dishwaher and kitchen sink.

- A call from a friend to tell me the good things happening in her life.

- Lunch with girlfriends. Perhaps a salad with a grilled salmon filet on top.

- Two hours of sewing, time at the loom, spinning, or doing fiber preparation with no interruptions.

- A few minutes in the garden to deadhead the petunias and notice that no new weeds have sprumg up over night.

- Discovering a new title by an old, familiar,and favorite author. Or, finding and old title by a new (to me) favorite author.

- A yoga class with Karen or Adrianna, my two favorite yoga instructors.

- Having all the ingredients for a supper menu that appeals to me.

- The people for whom I cook to enjoy the menu as much as (or more than) I do.

- Being able to leave the kitchen, knowing that it won't need touch up cleaning after the others have finished with the dishes.

- A curl up with an "evil" Sudoku puzzle that I have intuitive insight to solve quickly.

- An hour or two of quiet reading.

- A good poem (Wendell Berry, Mary Oliver, Billy Collins, Robert Frost, a psalm) before bedtime with time for preprandial contemplation.

- And a snuggle down into those clean cool lavendar scented sheets to drift off to sleep without listening to someone else snoring.

- Oh yes, and finally....someone, who is interested enough to ask what would make my day perfect. Thanks for asking, Ernest.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

You know you're in a bad mood when you hear the current news about North Korea and your first thought is "go ahead, just get it over with."

It causes me to recall the fact that in all the years that I've been voting, I have never cast a vote to the winner of a Presidential election.

My mother never voted in her life (that I knew of..and the polling station was in our back yard for a number of years!) Yet she always cast aspersions on sitting politicians. That seemed like cheating to me. In my rubrick, one has no right to complain if one didn't vote.

I vote every chance I get. Therefore, given my history and the acknowledgement that a vote is not a bet on a winner, I believe I have a right to complain.

Let me just say this one thing:
Wouldn't you think that the father of twin girls would be able to recognize when he is being tag teamed by Iran and North Korea?

Yeah...we have to remember who we're talking about here. Learning is not the strong suit.

End of political rant.

Sunday, June 11, 2006


Guest Blogger

Just thought I'd step in and help Valerie out a bit. I met her a few weeks ago while she was out planting impatiens by the basement walkout. We struck up a conversation and she seemed like a pretty nice gal, so I decided to help out by lapping up a few mosquitoes while she dug around in the dirt.

I have to admit, I sort of fell for her right then and there. But alas, she's married. In fact, it's 29 years today.

A fellow would have to be pretty fast on his feet to keep up with her these days. Most mornings she's been out with the hose and watering can, keeping up with the flowers she planted.

Shortly after that she takes off for an hour or two. Am not sure what's up with that. She always has on her walking shoes and sometimes she carries this little bag that holds some sort of mat rolled up into a tight cylinder along with a belt, foam block, and towel. Must be something good because she usually comes back pretty chilled out.

Once she's home and has the house cleaned up she starts in with sewing. Now this is a trip! She thinks no one's around since her hubby and son left for work hours ago. So she sews half dressed....sew a seam, try it on...rip it off and head back to the sewing machine sans garment. Once in awhile she seems to think that different underwear would improve the fit. It seems to work because she's finished at least one complete outfit that I've seen. However, there's a trail of clothing, bra's, slips, etc. to be cleaned up at the end of the sewing session.

Meanwhile I hear her muttering about something called Convergence. She's making lists and checking pieces of paper and getting a little frenzied about the whole thing.

Then every now and then she pulls out this set of paint chips she's put together and walks around the first floor of the house muttering something about, "haven't even started yet and it's the middle of June!"

Do you think she'd believe me if I told her I could have that first floor painted and carpeted for her in a minute if she'd give me a kiss?

Yeah, me neither.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

I promised

that postings would be sparse this summer, and I aim to keep that promise!

As I mentioned earlier, Convergence is coming up at the end of the month. My summer wardrobe is down to torn, stained, and frayed items. I have shopped & returned items, mail ordered & returned items, then shopped again...and returned items.

Summer wardrobes have always been difficult for me. I'm a simple, tailored fashions kind of person. Summer clothes are simple and not tailored. Add to that the current look of too short, too tight, and generally all over too revealing and I'm left with no clothes in the closet and nothing out there to purchase.

Enter Threads magazine, trusty sewing machine, and pattern stash! I am sewing clothes to wear to Convergence, summer vacation at the shore, MIL's 80th birthday party, and nephew's wedding.

I have linen and linen/rayon blend in Biking red, black, periwinkle, and natural unbleached linen shade (somewhere between tan & khaki). I have a wonderful black and cream polyester print. I have a great cotton/poly blend, open weave print fabric that coordinates w/ the periwinkle. AND...I have patterns which I've sewn before and I know will fit!!....for shirt type jackets and casual jackets w/ 3/4 sleeves, for a shell top, two styles of skirts, and capri pants. I have shoes and bags....but am going to need to update the costume jewelry/accessories once I get the garments together.

Here's the pattern for the print, semi-sheer, polyester skirt:


Here's one of the patterns for the linen fabrics:


And here's the pattern for the black linen jacket:



That should keep me busy this week, along with prepping the laundry room for painting, and washing a few windows. Let's hope the temperatures stay nice and cool , as they are right now.

Stay tuned for the next episode when I publish my Convergence shopping list!

Friday, May 26, 2006

Sad to say, this story doesn't surprise me....

Women Accused of Stealing Yarn

From what I've seen, I'll bet more than a few yarn shop owners have had this sort of experience. Maybe not to the same magnitude, but....

Just surfacing for a moment. Life is extremely busy right now and I suspect it will be a quiet summer on the blog front.

My goal is to get the first floor of house, the stairway, and upstairs hallway painted and carpeted by mid-September. I'll start as soon as I get four flats of flowers (and then some) planted this weekend.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

AWOL...

There has been precious little spinning, in fact precious little fiber work, going on around here in the past two weeks. There has been a lot of yardwork, housecleaning, clothes shopping (and returning clothes I didn't like once they came home with me), and other spring distractions. Ds is home from college and is job hunting, an event which brings with it a lot of testosterone loaded angst.

I'll spare you the household details and instead share the little bit of fiber related stuff and some responses to the comments.

My Convergence registration is complete and reservations are made for accomodations. Whoopee...so I will be off to my first Convergence at the end of June!

Also, I'm reading The Root of Wild Madder, an enjoyable nonfiction read related to Persian rugs, history, culture, etc. It's a good book for fiber junkies and I can't help but think of Sara Lamb's cut pile work as I read this book.

Notice that Amazon's "buy together" offering is A Perfect Red. I read this awhile ago and found it difficult to stay awake through the book. The current book is more engaging.

Immediately previous to this I read Three Cups of Tea. Although not fiber related, it made me think about talking with Judith MacKenzie McCuin at SOAR in 2003 and her travels through the Middle East. Her observation was that education is absolutely critical to stopping some of the worst practices in our world. Greg Mortenson agrees and has made it his personal mission to do something about it.

Now for responses to the comments:
Jackie: I've been spinning for 21 years this spring.

Leigh: Tall Guy has it right. There's no need to fill the bobbin when spinning superfine yarns. A scarf takes between 600 and 800 yds. of yarn. A shawl takes between 1200 and 2100 yds. of yarn. So the maximum amount of fiber required would be about 4 oz. Hope that helps put it into perspective.

And that's all I have to say right now. Perhaps time will free up as we head into summer and I'll have more fiber activities to write about.