Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Quick Random

Tomorrow is my birthday. Since ds will not be here for the day, I got to open one of my presents early: a card reader that allows me to download the photo's from my phone.  So here is a backlog of downloads.

I just happened by this orange cone near some telecommunications cable repair activity in Nov. Love the logo.  Could you imaging placing these around you while working at the loom or wheel?  Maybe it would cut down on those "have you seen my...." interruptions:

In early December we attended an honors banquet for ds which was held in a Ukranian Cultural Center.  While waiting to be seated, I found these wonderful ethnic embroideries displayed in frames (behind glass) in a hallway.  While not the best shots in the world, at least these cell phone shots help to transmit a little of the beauty of these hand embroidered pieces:


Yes...all of the black in the above photos are individual stitches. Imagine the eye strain!

I don't recall about the black border in this photo, I think it was mat board the piece was mounted on.  I wish it was possible to share pictures of the larger pieces with you.  They are lovely examples of meticulous handwork.

Time is short.  Again, one more sleep....until my birthday, and within this tired, tired decade.

Still working on the blue post....

Thursday, December 24, 2009

One more sleep....

Yes I've been quiet.  I've been busy, just like you.  Arrived home from our annual family trip/tour on Tuesday.
Learned the answer to the riddle:  "When is the shortest day of the year longest?"
Answer:  When you're sitting in a car in a snow storm and holiday traffic.

Restocked the fridge and pantry on Wed. (and waited in line behind the whole town in the grocery store at 8:30 AM!).  Put up the tree last night.

Took some photo's for the promised "blue post" yesterday before the finished item was wrapped up for its recipient.  That blue post will get blogged yet.

Meanwhile, you can keep up on Santa here.

Or read a current post on today in Bethlehem here.  I find a certain irony in Ms. Prusher's phrase: "....misery and merriment are in the eye of the beholder."  As we recount the nativity story, there certainly is quite a bit of human misery present in that stable where we as Christians see much joy.  The contrast in the season continues to this day.

Or, since this post is lacking in photos, you can peruse some current photo's here

Wishing each of you who visits here the very best of the holiday season.  May your 2010 be the beginning of a decade with more merriment and less misery than the decade about to close. 

And I promise to post again before that decade gets here.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Better Off Red

At last some finished items:

These are the Absinthe socks (Knitty Link) made from Kroy 3 ply, a yarn which hasn't been made for a very long while.  I love the fit of these socks, but they were truly a pain to knit.  They languished for quite awhile because the back of the leg is plain...sort of the sock equivalent of a "coffin sweater" ( that term and see what you get).  Meaning when you knit pattern on the front of a garment and plain on the back, it's like pretending that no one will see the back of it.  The one place sure of that happening is?
So, anyway...they are done.

Then we move onto a finished prayer shawl.
Just plain garter stitch made of JoAnn's Sensations yarn.  Easy care and hypoallergenic for whoever the recipient might be.  This colorway reminds me of glowing embers.

And finally, hot off the blocking pins:

Queen Silvia Shawl from Nancy Bush's Knitted Lace of Estonia. The yarn is Skacel Merino Lace which is called for in the pattern. There was a lot of yarn left over.
I thought about adding more repeats to the shawl, but then would have had to do the math to add repeats to the border...too lazy.  Mine blocked out to 34" by 62", which is larger than the pattern reports at 24" x 58".  I don't think I would want it any longer or wider than it is.  Perhaps I will wear it on Sunday night when I serve as one of the narrators for the Kneeling in Bethlehem program our church is doing on Sunday night.

So...there you go.  Some finished items at last. Very seasonal, don't you think?

Next up:  the color blue.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009


I have a lot of  "blog fodder" backed up.  Most of it is red and finished. However, time is very short right now.  And quiet, restful moments are few.

Above is the rising full moon from our balcony last evening.  While standing there gazing at it, the song below kept (and keeps) going through my head.

And in case you haven't seen it yet, here's the Pink Glove Dance for Breast Cancer Awareness:

Next post: Red

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Thanksgiving Day Tale

Courtesy of O. Henry via The Literature Collection.

Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving.
from one who has spent her entire life skeptical of tradition, and yet cooks a turkey today.  Oh, and the other Thanksgiving tradition:  listening to this the whole way through at least once.
Enjoy the read.

Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen

There is one day that is ours. There is one day when all we Americans who are not self-made go back to the old home to eat saleratus biscuits and marvel how much nearer to the porch the old pump looks than it used to. Bless the day. President Roosevelt gives it to us. We hear some talk of the Puritans, but don't just remember who they were. Bet we can lick 'em, anyhow, if they try to land again. Plymouth Rocks? Well, that sounds more familiar. Lots of us have had to come down to hens since the Turkey Trust got its work
in. But somebody in Washington is leaking out advance information to 'em about these Thanksgiving proclamations.

The big city east of the cranberry bogs has made Thanksgiving Day an institution. The last Thursday in November is the only day in the year on which it recognizes the part of America lying across the ferries. It is the one day that is purely American. Yes, a day of celebration, exclusively American.

And now for the story which is to prove to you that we have traditions on this side of the ocean that are becoming older at a much rapider rate than those of England are--thanks to our git-up and enterprise.

Stuffy Pete took his seat on the third bench to the right as you enter Union Square from the east, at the walk opposite the fountain.  Every Thanksgiving Day for nine years he had taken his seat there promptly at 1 o'clock. For every time he had done so things had happened to him--Charles Dickensy things that swelled his waistcoat above his heart, and equally on the other side.

But to-day Stuffy Pete's appearance at the annual trysting place seemed to have been rather the result of habit than of the yearly hunger which, as the philanthropists seem to think, afflicts the poor at such extended intervals.

Certainly Pete was not hungry. He had just come from a feast that had left him of his powers barely those of respiration and locomotion. His eyes were like two pale gooseberries firmly imbedded in a swollen and gravy-smeared mask of putty. His breath came in short wheezes; a senatorial roll of adipose tissue denied a
fashionable set to his upturned coat collar. Buttons that had been sewed upon his clothes by kind Salvation fingers a week before flew like popcorn, strewing the earth around him. Ragged he was, with a split shirt front open to the wishbone; but the November breeze, carrying fine snowflakes, brought him only a grateful coolness.  For Stuffy Pete was overcharged with the caloric produced by a super-bountiful dinner, beginning with oysters and ending with plum pudding, and including (it seemed to him) all the roast turkey and baked potatoes and chicken salad and squash pie and ice cream in the world. Wherefore he sat, gorged, and gazed upon the world with after-dinner contempt.

The meal had been an unexpected one. He was passing a red brick mansion near the beginning of Fifth avenue, in which lived two old ladies of ancient family and a reverence for traditions. They even denied the existence of New York, and believed that Thanksgiving Day was declared solely for Washington Square. One of their traditional habits was to station a servant at the postern gate with orders to admit the first hungry wayfarer that came along after the hour of noon had struck, and banquet him to a finish. Stuffy Pete happened to pass by on his way to the park, and the seneschals gathered him in and upheld the custom of the castle.

After Stuffy Pete had gazed straight before him for ten minutes he was conscious of a desire for a more varied field of vision. With a tremendous effort he moved his head slowly to the left. And then his eyes bulged out fearfully, and his breath ceased, and the rough-shod ends of his short legs wriggled and rustled on the gravel.

For the Old Gentleman was coming across Fourth avenue toward his bench.

Every Thanksgiving Day for nine years the Old Gentleman had come there and found Stuffy Pete on his bench. That was a thing that the Old Gentleman was trying to make a tradition of. Every Thanksgiving Day for nine years he had found Stuffy there, and had led him to a restaurant and watched him eat a big dinner. They do those things in England unconsciously. But this is a young country, and nine years is not so bad. The Old Gentleman was a staunch American patriot, and considered himself a pioneer in American tradition. In order to become picturesque we must keep on doing one thing for a long time without ever letting it get away from us. Something like collecting the weekly dimes in industrial insurance. Or cleaning the streets.

The Old Gentleman moved, straight and stately, toward the Institution that he was rearing. Truly, the annual feeding of Stuffy Pete was nothing national in its character, such as the Magna Charta or jam for breakfast was in England. But it was a step. It was almost feudal. It showed, at least, that a Custom was not impossible to New Y--ahem!--America.

The Old Gentleman was thin and tall and sixty. He was dressed all in black, and wore the old-fashioned kind of glasses that won't stay on your nose. His hair was whiter and thinner than it had been last year, and he seemed to make more use of his big, knobby cane with the crooked handle.

As his established benefactor came up Stuffy wheezed and shuddered like some woman's over-fat pug when a street dog bristles up at him.  He would have flown, but all the skill of Santos-Dumont could not have separated him from his bench. Well had the myrmidons of the two old ladies done their work.

"Good morning," said the Old Gentleman. "I am glad to perceive that the vicissitudes of another year have spared you to move in health about the beautiful world. For that blessing alone this day of thanksgiving is well proclaimed to each of us. If you will come with me, my man, I will provide you with a dinner that should make your physical being accord with the mental."

That is what the old Gentleman said every time. Every Thanksgiving Day for nine years. The words themselves almost formed an Institution. Nothing could be compared with them except the Declaration of Independence. Always before they had been music in Stuffy's ears. But now he looked up at the Old Gentleman's face with tearful agony in his own. The fine snow almost sizzled when it fell upon his perspiring brow. But the Old Gentleman shivered a little and turned his back to the wind.

Stuffy had always wondered why the Old Gentleman spoke his speech rather sadly. He did not know that it was because he was wishing every time that he had a son to succeed him. A son who would come there after he was gone--a son who would stand proud and strong before some subsequent Stuffy, and say: "In memory of my father."  Then it would be an Institution.

But the Old Gentleman had no relatives. He lived in rented rooms in one of the decayed old family brownstone mansions in one of the quiet streets east of the park. In the winter he raised fuchsias in a little conservatory the size of a steamer trunk. In the spring he walked in the Easter parade. In the summer he lived at a farmhouse in the New Jersey hills, and sat in a wicker armchair, speaking of a butterfly, the ornithoptera amphrisius, that he hoped to find some day. In the autumn he fed Stuffy a dinner. These were the Old Gentleman's occupations.

Stuffy Pete looked up at him for a half minute, stewing and helpless in his own self-pity. The Old Gentleman's eyes were bright with the giving-pleasure. His face was getting more lined each year, but his little black necktie was in as jaunty a bow as ever, and the linen was beautiful and white, and his gray mustache was curled carefully at the ends. And then Stuffy made a noise that sounded like peas bubbling in a pot. Speech was intended; and as the Old Gentleman had heard the sounds nine times before, he rightly construed them into Stuffy's old formula of acceptance.

"Thankee, sir. I'll go with ye, and much obliged. I'm very hungry, sir."

The coma of repletion had not prevented from entering Stuffy's mind the conviction that he was the basis of an Institution. His Thanksgiving appetite was not his own; it belonged by all the sacred rights of established custom, if not, by the actual Statute of Limitations, to this kind old gentleman who bad preempted it. True,
America is free; but in order to establish tradition some one must be a repetend--a repeating decimal. The heroes are not all heroes of steel and gold. See one here that wielded only weapons of iron, badly silvered, and tin.

The Old Gentleman led his annual protege southward to the restaurant, and to the table where the feast had always occurred. They were recognized.

"Here comes de old guy," said a waiter, "dat blows dat same bum to a meal every Thanksgiving."

The Old Gentleman sat across the table glowing like a smoked pearl at his corner-stone of future ancient Tradition. The waiters heaped the table with holiday food--and Stuffy, with a sigh that was mistaken for hunger's expression, raised knife and fork and carved for himself a crown of imperishable bay.

No more valiant hero ever fought his way through the ranks of an enemy. Turkey, chops, soups, vegetables, pies, disappeared before him as fast as they could be served. Gorged nearly to the uttermost when he entered the restaurant, the smell of food had almost caused him to lose his honor as a gentleman, but he rallied like a true knight. He saw the look of beneficent happiness on the Old Gentleman's face--a happier look than even the fuchsias and the ornithoptera amphrisius had ever brought to it--and he had not the heart to see it wane.

In an hour Stuffy leaned back with a battle won. "Thankee kindly, sir," he puffed like a leaky steam pipe; "thankee kindly for a hearty meal." Then he arose heavily with glazed eyes and started toward the kitchen. A waiter turned him about like a top, and pointed him toward the door. The Old Gentleman carefully counted out $1.30 in silver change, leaving three nickels for the waiter.

They parted as they did each year at the door, the Old Gentleman going south, Stuffy north.

Around the first corner Stuffy turned, and stood for one minute.  Then he seemed to puff out his rags as an owl puffs out his feathers, and fell to the sidewalk like a sunstricken horse.

When the ambulance came the young surgeon and the driver cursed softly at his weight. There was no smell of whiskey to justify a transfer to the patrol wagon, so Stuffy and his two dinners went to the hospital. There they stretched him on a bed and began to test him for strange diseases, with the hope of getting a chance at some problem with the bare steel.

And lo! an hour later another ambulance brought the Old Gentleman.  And they laid him on another bed and spoke of appendicitis, for he looked good for the bill. 

But pretty soon one of the young doctors met one of the young nurses whose eyes he liked, and stopped to chat with her about the cases.

"That nice old gentleman over there, now," he said, "you wouldn't think that was a case of almost starvation. Proud old family, I guess. He told me he hadn't eaten a thing for three days."

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


For the past week and a half there have been temporary barricades on one of the streets I drive down frequently. In addition, one of the houses on that street has had curious goings on.

It's a modest '70's style colonial, probably about 2400 sq. ft. at most. The first day there were about 5 moving vans on the street in front of the house. way could all that stuff fit into that house, nor could all that stuff have come out of that house. Admittedly I didn't see any "stuff", just all those vans jockeying for position.

Later in the week there were two big trailers in front of the house. One of them had a side panel where one could see all kinds of electronic metering equipment. Hmmm? Biohazard? Toxic waste? Too much CSI?

Yesterday I stopped at Hands on Leather in my continuing quest for the perfect little purse. The store is located on a one way street with diagnoal parking. In front of every parking spot was a temporary "No Parking" sign, yet cars were in those spots. So I pulled in a vacant one, and could then see in small print "after 5:42 PM". Hmmm....what's so special about 5:42 PM?

Nancy did have the perfect bag that I've been searching out for the past 6 weeks (this one) and while settling up I asked about the signs. She looked at me in disbelief...."Didn't you know they are filming a movie in town?" Duh....well now I know.

It's this one. Now you know too.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Lee and Shan both correctly identified me in the "Quick" post comments. Send me a note to vmusselmAThotmailDOTcom   Perhaps you could use some handspun yarn?

I don't think I've put up identifying pictures of me....(well...maybe that neck...argh!  must pull out the mock turtle necks shirts.)  The exception would be my wedding picture from 32 years ago.  I am well aware that I no longer look like that.

Everything I needed to know about round robin workshops....

The workshop this week was my second round robin workshop with Robyn Spady this year.  Prior to this I had pretty much sworn off round robin workshops.

For the uninitiated: A round robin workshop is one where all of the participants receive a draft and instructions for warping their loom.  Each one brings their dressed loom to the workshop and the weavers work their way around the room, weaving a sample on each warp.  What could go wrong!? (ha!) my history Murphy often made an appearance and sometimes even prevailed the experience.  Not so with Robyn's workshops.

The first of  Robyn's workshops I attended was  Pictures, Piles, Potpourri, and Perplexing Curiosities.  There were at least 12 of us in the class.  Everything went smoothly over the three days.  Each of us even wove velvet! (How cool is that?!)  At the end of the workshop we all came home with a completed sample book, each sample tucked neatly in a protector page with the instructions for that weave and alternative treadlings for some of them.  That's the goal of a workshop: to be able to reproduce, adapt, and advance the information learned in the workshop.

After the workshop, I flipped through my sample book and marveled about how successful the workshop was:
  • Everyone's loom was properly threaded. 
  • It was clear what we needed to do at each station.  
  • Cutting off the loom was organized and orderly. 
Much of this was due to Robyn's level of organization and communication before the workshop.  But I also thought that this was probably an exceptional group of weavers.  After all, Joan  taught many of them and she runs a weaving weaving boot camp!  Clearly a little "military order" improved this workshop.

A few weeks ago our guild announced Robyn's Two Sides to Every Cloth workshop. I steeled myself about the round robin thing then signed up, got my instructions, dressed my loom and showed up for yet another astoundingly successful workshop. No class of bootcamp graduates for this one, just the typical  guild mix of newbies, highly experienced, and dilettante weavers.  And here I sit with another full sample book, with duplicates of some of the samples, and a gazillion ideas for future warps.

So, what makes a successful round robin workshop?  Here are the my thoughts on that subject:

For the participant:

Before the workshop:

  • As you prepare your loom for a round robin workshop, treat your loom as you treat your home when you are expecting guests.  Clean things up a little bit.  Tighten that loose brake.  Make sure the warp has even tension, is threaded properly, and has the tie-up the way the instructor has suggested.  You will be "hosting" the all of the other workshop participants on your loom.  Make those guests welcome.  Have a couple of bobbins wound in advance.  Leave a brief, specific note with your loom if it's an unusual loom in your area and it has a quirk or two.  For example, my workshop table loom has the treadles arranged from right to left rather than the usual left to right configuration.
  • Assume the instructor knows what they are doing.  Don't make arbitrary changes to the instructions based on what you think is a better way.  If you have such temptations, contact the instructor....most everybody has email, or twitter, or whatever.  It's not hard to ask the simple question that could avert disaster for yourself and the rest of your classmates..
  • If you don't understand something in the instructions, again ask the instructor.  (see above)
  • Trust:  Trust that the weave structure you are assigned is just the one you need at this point in your weaving life.  Trust that there is some kernel of knowledge or truth in that structure that is tucked in there just for you to learn in the next few days.  Even if it's just plain weave on a straight draw, trust that you don't know everything about's not possible to know every nuance about every variable that's going to go into this workshop in advance.  Be open hearted and prepared to look for what that truth will be for you.  (In other words, don't call the instructor and ask for "something" else just because you don't like "your weave" or you think it's boring.  The only exception is if there is absolutely no way your loom can handle the warp as described in the instructions.)
  • Give yourself plenty of time to dress the loom.  Break it up into stages and fit them into your schedule the week before.  Threading errors are more likely if you are threading your loom at 2:30 AM the day of the workshop.
  • Unless it is counter to workshop instructions, weave a header in the warp before the workshop.  You could also try out your treadling.  Make sure there are no crossed warp threads, no threading errors, and the tension is even.
  • Make a packing list of the tools you'll need.  Assemble them and put an indentifying mark on them so they are easy to keep track of at the workshop.  Tuck that list into your weaving kit and take it with you.
  • Get plenty of rest the night before.  You are going to be taking in a bunch of new information along with the fact that you will be using different motor skills in adapting to the other looms in the workshop.  This is taxing for even the most flexible and energetic body and brain.
At the workshop:
  • Arrive in time to get your loom set up and be ready at the start of class.  
  • Check your attitude.  This workshop is not all about you.  It is all about gaining new information that everyone in the group will be able to use in the future. 
  • Most of us in the weaving community are "maturing" rapidly.  We need new weavers....a lot of new weavers, to replace us and to help us keep our equipment and yarn supply lines running.  Not everyone in the class will have gone through the checklist above.  So be prepared to be patient with your fellow weavers.
  • Think again about hospitality with regard to the looms.  If you live in the biggest, nicest house in town, you're going to be awfully lonely if you aren't gracious when visiting people with more meager dwellings.  The same thing is true with workshop looms.  Be gracious about using looms that you don't love.  Someone else may love it, or it's the only loom they could lay hands on to take advantage of this learning experience.  It's only a sample, be nice.  And don't castigate a newbie if they've made some small error in warp preparation.  (Like you've never woven two yards before discovering a threading or treadling error...right?)  If it's something that can simply and easily be fixed (ie. a broken warp thread) do so graciously.  We're planting new weavers here, don't pull them up by the roots!
  • If you must count, don't do it out loud.
  • Don't stand and talk to someone while they are weaving. (see above...most of us are counting.)
  • Make sure that your samples are clearly identified as yours.  Little hang tags on strings, masking tape with your name work well.   Something more than just a shot of odd colored yarn that could get lost in the shuffle.  It's also helpful to identify for yourself which sample it is so that it can easily be paired with the instructions in your sample book.
  • Don't talk to your neighbor when the instructor is talking.  And turn off your cell phone.
  • Be helpful.  Looms and benches and all that equipment isn't easy to schlep around.  However, weavers and their looms can be kind of quirky.  Something that you think needs fixed may not need fixing.   If you see that some help might be needed first ask:  "How would you like me to help?"  That cord you think is in the way may be integral to the loom set up.  The weaver you're helping knows if the loom will only fit in their car if it is turned to a 65 degree angle behind the armrest of the passenger seat.  Unsolicited help if often not helpful.
  • Clean up.  Workshop spaces are not easy or cheap to come by.  If you leave the place a mess, your guild may not be able to get that venue again.  Or if you leave the clean up to other workshop participants, you may not be received so warmly in the future.  (See hospitality above.)
  • Remember that packing list you used to prepare for the workshop?  Check it again as you pack up to go.  Be sure you have all of your belongings.
For the Instructor:
  • Provide clear and concise instructions for the students.  Have another weaver proof read them for accuracy and clarity before implementing them.
  • Let students or the workshop coordinator know the most convenient way to contact you if there are questions.
  • Be gracious.
  • It's not all about you.  Expect that students may have likes, dislikes, and preconceptions about certain parts of weaving.  That doesn't mean they don't like you..  Accept their feelings about "pick-up", "clasped wefts", changing tie-ups mid-warp, or whatever.  But be encouraging and supportive.  Invite them to try something new.
  • Leave your ego at the door.  If you were invited to teach this group and they have agreed to pay your workshop rates, then trust that you are well respected within that room.  That's a good thing and for now, that is enough.
  • Invite and accept feedback.  It's an opportunity for you to make this workshop better for future groups.  You may also get ideas for other workshop topics that you can teach.
  • If you have a chance, take one of Robyn's workshops.
IMO, we could change the name of these things to "Round Robyn Workshops" (well, the successful ones anyway.)  Her knowledge, unflagging energy, enthusiasm, and level of organization make for an exceptional learning experience.  Pay attention to all the neat little things she does in advance to cut down on confusion.  Those things also help in keeping everyone headed in the same direction.  We all know that leading weavers can be a bit like herding cats.

So...that's my list.  There are some other things under the category of general weaving that I learned this time around.  I'll save that for another post.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


For a quick look on what we were doing in the weaving workshop check here and here. Just for fun, can anyone (who doesn't know me outside the blog) guess which picture features me in that last link? (hint, I'm wearing something made from handspun yarn.)

Answers to questions in the comments:

  • With the support spindles I usually use a little wooden base that I bought with my Forrester spindle.  It is pictured in this post.
  • The sentence:  "A certain amount of legerdemain was required to truss the turkey filled with that much fennel dressing.  (write me if you want the fennel dressing recipe)
  • The workshop was held in a large church basement fellowship hall.  They have a triptych painted on that long wall that's sort of a landscape with lots of greens and purples framed as viewed through a palladium style window.  It's new since we were there for a workshop last spring.
Gotta go, I'm dog tired.  And there some busy days ahead:  Guild meeting tomorrow, yoga workshop on Friday, birthday party (for a friend) on Saturday, and tickets to see A Little Night Music with yet another birthday girlfriend on Sunday.

BTW, I know more people with birthdays in the coming week of November than any other time of year.  Mary, the Sunday birthday girl and elementary school teacher said that she's noticed that too in her almost 40 years of teaching.  Her theory is that Valentine's Day is 9 months before.  So, there you go.

Now, where  did I stash all those birthday cards?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Random Busy

Over the weekend I made some support spindles:

I like support spindles for short fibers like cotton and cashmere. These were made from large, flat, semi-precious stone donut pendant beads .  They are shown here, nestled in the cashmere that they are designed to spin.  My favorite is the speckled one in the middle.  It spins like a dream and weighs 20g.  The biggest disappointment is the lapis on on the left.  The stone is not well balanced, and though it spins's just okay.  The one on the left has neat sparkles in it and has a pretty nice spin too.

Next:  A drum roll please:

Finally the cast off row for the Queen Silvia shawl!  Stitch count on the final row was 832 stitches.  I'm about one third of the way through this cast off and will probably finish it during The Good Wife or NCIS if I decide to put off writing Christmas cards yet again.

Over the weekend this warp was measured, threaded and tied-on:

For this workshop:

which will wrap up tomorrow.  More about that later.

And last but not least, I learned a new word today:
legerdemain - def. skillfulness in using ones hands particularly for deception as in conjuring.
The interesting part is that I learned this word while reading my first full length graphic book (not a novel, since it's a biography).  Funny that one should learn a new big word from a book narrated in pictures.  Guess that will teach me to look down my nose at new art forms.  The book is Fun Home: A Family Tragic Comic by Alison Bechdel.  Her ability to communicated complex and nuanced information with illustration and words is fascinating to me.

Next up: a post about weaving. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Larger Stage....

William Shakespeare said that "All the world's a stage...."  and what a strange stage it feels to me this week as I ponder the news.  News full of beginnings, endings and ongoings:

As I type, the Memorial Service at Fort Hood is playing in the background. What a sad ending for 13 heroes.

Yesterday the news was all about the 20th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall. I have distinct memories as a second grader, of sitting in front of the black and white tv in my best friend's living room. I remember feeling perplexed as Walter Cronkite reported behind the blurry footage of people desperately trying to cross the border to West Berlin as the wall and barbed wire went up. Now in a strange twist of fate, another little girl who was sitting within the boundaries of that wall at that same time is the Chancellor of a united Germany.

I also remember, as a young adult, following the news story of the ending of the US involvement in the war in Viet Nam, a war that was the back drop for my high school and college years. This was the first war to be graphically televised into our homes and it was all disturbing. The end of the war was equally disturbing as the Viet Namese Boat People fled as refugees from their homeland. Now today in the news a 5 year old refugee from that time returns to Danang as a U.S. Navy Commander. What a journey.

Seven years ago, we all watched in horror for three weeks as the elusive Beltway Sniper Attacks.  Ten people died and three were injured. Tonight the mastermind and perpetrator of that evil is to be put to death. I must admit to being ambivalent about the death penalty, but in this case what other end makes sense? If only it would be an end to all such evil.

On a lighter note, today marks 40 years of the broadcast of Sesame Street. I was a teenager with nieces and nephews when this show was launched. Big Bird provided the inspiration for my costume for a Halloween/birthday party for dh when we were dating. For many years I worked as a pediatric physical therapist and am also a mom. Sesame Street characters were wonderful and familiar "tools" to ease some of my small patients into their therapy activities. I am indebted to them. May Sesame Street continue to be around for 40 more years!

So these are all the things I am pondering while working the interminable 776 stitch border rounds on the Queen Silvia Shawl.

What's that saying?.... May you live in interesting times.

Friday, October 30, 2009

And one more to go....

(With apologies for the photographs....we've had incessant rain here in southeast Michigan.)
Here's the first wrist warmer of the pair:

The yarn is Mini Mochi in color #113.  The pattern is from Wrist Warmer Pattern Generator (Ravelry link).  The bag is a little gift bag recieved from the Bourbon Heritage Center during the trip mentioned in this post. It's the perfect size for this small project and is seasonally appropriate.

And below is the Queen Silvia shawl last blogged about here.

One more pattern repeat and then it's time to pick up all those stitches around the edge.  (A task that might just send me over the edge!)

The wrist warmers are easy to knit while reading.  Am currently reading The Girl Who Played With Fire  and Three Day Road (with thanks to Shan for the recommendation.

The lace shawl doesn't allow for reading while knitting, so it is reserved for tv, audiobooks or podcasts.

Finally some threadwork is getting done.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Ghosts of Christmas Past

Last night I woke in the middle of the night in a cold sweat with the realization that in two months it will be Christmas.  It was like a twisted version of Scrooge's visit from Marley's ghost.  Instead of floating back through time to wonderful, romantic, cozy Christmases, I was taken back through the last four years of Christmas as I experienced them.  In reality, none of them were pretty.

This was the lead up to Christmas 2005, which involved multiple flat tires, a traffic ticket, keys lost in a drop box requiring another encounter with the police and a gnomelike locksmith. We followed that up with a 1,645 mile road trip to collect the three of us up and get us to family visits in Pa.

Christmas 2006 brought 8 inlaw house guests and one flu virus for 3 days.  Need I say more?

Christmas 2007 brought a miserable chest cold and another devastating family experience that I won't share on the blog since I'm just a bit player in that drama.  Trust me, it was tough going.

Christmas 2008 brought its own fresh hell of 12" of snow, high winds, and four days with no electricity, running water, or heat.  Need I remind you that these are the darkest, shortest, coldest days of the year?

I do tend to think that most experiences are what you make of them.  But people, read that list....there is no "MERRY" in there.

So while many of you may be selecting greeting cards.  Or perhaps you are busily knitting away on some cherished gift for a loved one.  As you start baking cookies and thinking about gift wrap.  And as you twine those evergreens into wreaths and pull out the holly-berry candles......

I will most likely be:
  • checking the spare tire.
  • stocking up on nonperishable pantry items.
  • getting in a store of drinking water...and some extra to flush toilets.
  • doing an inventory of batteries, flashlights, and candles.
  • checking the supply of Immodium and Tamiflu
  • making sure there is kerosene for the kerosene heater and wood for the fireplace.
In other'll be more like preparation for an apocalypse.

So there you go....that's my story and I'm stuck with it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Truth Is....

there's another reason I love October. We usually plan a little get away in October to do some sight seeing, and enjoy the country side after the summer people have packed up and gone home. Here's a little window on where we've been:

The first stop was Pleasant Hill, Kentucky  where they were holding a Dry Stone Conservancy competition upon our arrival. It was a bit damp, cloudy, and windy for that. So no pictures. Visit the link and use your imagination.

This photo is the quintessential photo from Pleasant Hill.  It is one of twin staircases in the administration building.:

There was a little textile related acquisition:

The author is Mary Elva Erf, who has taught in our area several times, but never when I could attend. If you'd like a copy it can be purchased here. Note that the book comes with a small handwoven sample shown in the photo.

And even though alpaca were not living in the U.S. in the time of the Shakers, I did acquire some baby alpaca top from the village store.  (Period authenticity is over rated.):

From there, we were off to the National Corvette Museum for a morning of poking around and lunch in their 1950's era cafe.

Further up the road (heading north again) we visited Mammoth Cave National Park. It was surprisingly busy for this time of year, then I realized that Ken Burn's special just ran on PBS. Being a National Park, federal safety guidelines apply. So going into the cave was a bit like getting on an airplane, only slightly more relaxed (no x-rays, and you can keep your shoes on). For that reason, we dispensed with the cameras since they came in camera bags. Sorry, no pictures because of that. We did hike both underground and on the surface. Beautiful area that I wouldn't mind going back to one day.

From there we headed north again to commence our travels along the Bourbon Trail:

The above photo is from Woodford favorite stop along the tour.  Maybe it was because we had the very personal "Corn to Cork" tour, led by a retired state trooper.

Eight distilleries in four days, with a tour of the Independent Stave Company tossed in to complete the measure.  We got our "passport" stamped at each distillery, qualifiing us to get T-shirts.  So now I can really say: "Been there, done that, got the Tshirt."!  Neither dh or I are bourbon drinkers, but the tours were fun and informative.

And now, I'm home relaxing, just like Mr. Noe in the photo above.

Yeah..right...there are gardens to clean out, windows to wash, not to mention "Laundry Mountain" to be tunneled through.

Oh...and the Big Project of new roof, siding, gutters & downspouts is just about done. Just waiting for the final walk through and writing a big check.

Friday, October 09, 2009

I've said it before

And I'll say it again:  I love October

After months of awful news we finally get the Nobel announcements and the Supreme Court (with a new judge!) deliberating in a nuanced way.  I can once again turn on the news.

And this morning this.

From the article:
As to whether the prize was given too early in Mr. Obama’s presidency, he (Mr. Jagland) said: “We are not awarding the prize for what may happen in the future but for what he has done in the previous year. We would hope this will enhance what he is trying to do.”
To me, the most important word in that quote is hope.  Something we have sorely needed for a long time.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Health and Beauty Tip

Do not keep the collagen filler eye cream and the hemorrhoid cream on the same bathroom shelf.

Unless, of course, you think you might go for that "eyes sunk into the back of your head" look.

Thank heavens my new glasses came in this afternoon!

Turkish Delight

From time to time Wanda and I have exchanged messages.  Sometimes by commenting on one another's blog.  Other times by email.  And occasionally by snail mail.  Always I stop by their business, Jenkins Woodworking and have a look around.  The link is to the page where I've always stopped and thought, "I need to get me one of those."

Well, time passed and nothing changed, then Syne did a post about Yarn Turtles. And once again I thought, "I need to get me one of those."   Then procrastination quickly set in again.  So Syne posted again.  Finally I sprang to action and emailed Wanda.

In a very short time this arrived:

Not only did she send my beloved .9 oz. Red Heart (wood, not the acrylic yarn!) Turkish Spindle, but she tucked in a hand dyed silk hanky, a sample of Optim fiber, and a nice portion of Indian tea w/ cardamom (not pictured here).  Everything was neatly packaged in tissue and tied up with bits and samples of handspun yarn. 

The film canister in the above picture is to give you an idea of how tiny this little delight is. 

I swear that Ed is coming very close to creating a perpetual motion machine, because this thing spins forever.  And since I love to spin fine yarns for lace and for weaving, it is just the spindle for me:

So, no sooner do I get started with this wonder than Wanda posted that Ed has come up with an even tinier creation .   She has a contest going, and some lucky person is going to win one. Wait...why am I telling you this?  Pick me!  Pick me!!

Friday, October 02, 2009

Quick Update and Shoulder Stand Panorama...

1. I broke my glasses on Wednesday. Got up in the moring, picked them up and they were in two pieces. Can you wear out your glasses? Was able to get an opthalmologist appt. on Thursday and spent most of the day arranging to get replacement glasses.

2. My new Jenkins Turkish Delight spindle arrived yesterday. I'm in love! Will post about that with photo's later.

Meanwhile, here's something to entertain you:

Umag Asanas At Sunset in Istria
 If you make it full screen, you can play around with it for all different sorts of views.  Plus there are more panoramic photo's to select.  Very entertaining.....if one is easily amused (like me).

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I'm not the kind of person who wins things....

..unless we are talking books.  When it comes to books it seems I get freebies in spades.  Just got a notice from Library Thing that I've snagged a copy of To Siberia by Per Petterson, who also wrote Out Stealing Horses (link is to my review).

I'm feeling a little guilty because I haven't had a chance to get to my last free book from this post.  Am currently reading A Reliable Wife for this Friday's book discussion group.  So far, I can see why the reviews compare the writing to Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca , but I think it is much darker and colder.  Or, maybe it's just the November weather we are having at the end of September.  October and November have always been big reading months for me, and this year I have plenty of reading stockpiled to get me through.

The first phase of The Big Project is complete, which left us without gutters and downspouts for the continuous rain and high winds since Sunday night.  So the drip, drip, drips have been disturbing our sleep.  We're waiting for the next dumpster to come in, the shingles, and gutters to be delivered and phase two of TBP to begin.  It would be nice if the high winds and rains would cease and allow progress.

I have spinning and knitting to show, but that will have to wait until the next post.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Someone has actually done it....

Silk from spiders (the link will take you to the article and photo's of the fabric.)

From the NY Times:
"The other day in a fourth-floor storage area deep within the American Museum of Natural History, two women wearing blue rubber gloves carefully pulled back a plastic covering to show what Mr. Peers and Mr. Godley — along with more than a million spiders and a dexterous team of intrepid Malagasy spider handlers — had accomplished. It is an 11-foot-long, brilliantly golden-hued cloth, the first recorded example of a hand-woven brocaded textile made entirely from the silk of spiders, according to experts at the Museum of Natural History, where beginning on Thursday it will go on display for six months in the Grand Gallery."

Monday, September 21, 2009


Yesterday was the fall sale of the Spinner's Flock guild. I wasn't going to go because there was absolutely nothing that I needed. But it was a beautiful day. Too beautiful to just hang around at home. So I went...and I acquired a few things anyway. And here's why:

Because it is so black:

I brought home 2 lbs. of raw black alpaca. It is very black, which is very hard to find. Here I am spinning it directly from Forsythe mini-combs without washing.

Because it is so soft:

I brought home 3 oz. of dehaired Mongolian cashmere. Also because I know Mary, the vendor, and I know that she has been to Mongolia more than once. I'm so glad that she generously shares this experience because it's a place I am never likely to visit.

Because it's in such great shape:

This is an actual printed copy of Oelsner and Dale's A Handbook of Weaves. The link is to the Amazon edition of this book which I purchased earlier this year. The photo below is the disclaimer printed in front of that book.

Although the Amazon copy is readable, it can be very hard on the eyes.  So you can see why I was so delighted to find an "original" (there's no publication date on it, but it's certainly not 1875) that is in wonderful condition. Below, yesterday's acquisition is on the left, the Amazon edition is on the right:

Which one would you rather snuggle down to read? And it was only $15.

I am very happy that I took the time to make the trip yesterday.....just because.

Oh...and the Big Project from the previous post did not start today because of rain. But they did move in all their equipment this morning. Now it really looks like a big project.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Big Project Ahead:

These are some of the materials delivered today to begin the "Big Project" on the exterior of the house. This is just the stuff for "phase 1". They are to start tear down work tomorrow (Saturday?). The summer has been short and wet, so they will work anytime the weather allows except Sunday. The entire job is supposed to take about 10 days of work, provided the weather holds. Keep a good thought for us: that the weather holds out and things proceed smoothly.
The Queen Silvia shawl continues apace. I am beyond the halfway point for pattern repeats in the body of the shawl. I don't mind the nupps so much, but in row 15 there's a stitch that involves knitting 5 stitches together 5 times. It creates a little bird's eye effect which is quite pretty, but sure is a PITA. You can see them if you click for big. Hmm...just noted that the nupps aren't all the visible in the photo.

Also still spindle spinning the silk and cotton. Am way past the halfway point on this too. But it sure seems like there's still a long way to go. But I do like the process and the results.

In the "Learn something new every day" category:

Did you know that you can make plain ol' popcorn in the microwave without it being the pricey microwave popcorn and without a special microwave dish? Click on the works. I've been making it that way for our evenings around the chiminea fire this week.

The other thing I've learned this week is that the cat gets seriously PO'd if I'm drop spindling when she thinks it's meal time. Not really surprising....but funny to watch her head butt the spindle and my leg rather than try to play with it.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Thank you Tom Friedman

One of the reasons I haven't been blogging much about fiber lately is because my thoughts have been caught up in this country's crazy behavior around health care, energy, and the economy.

Several times I've written draft posts for the blog, but thought better of it. When we got home from Canada on Labor Day to hear that the conservatives were attempting to prevent the President from addressing school students for the beginning of the school year, I was ashamed and embarrassed for my country.

Yesterday's NYT op ed piece by Tom Friedman expresses my frustration much better than I can. Go read his article Our One-Party Democracy.

This behavior of opposition for opposition's sake is supremely evident in the screaming opposition to healthcare reform. Not a single bill had been crafted, but there was the opposition: "Kill the Bill". A bill that doesn't yet exist. No conversation about such a complex and nuanced topic, just opposition.

How quickly they forget that every single presidential candidate in the 18 months leading up to last November's election had a plans for healthcare reform. Not business as usual, but reform.

It's time we make sure that it is not acceptable for elected officials to "Just say no" to impede progress in addressing the critical challenges we face as a nation. We need to hold their feet to the fire and not allow them to wait out the election cycle to try and change the composition of Congress.

All of us have had to learn to work with what we have. It's time we require our elected officials to work with what they have in the composition of the House and Senate. They need to sit down, generate ideas, have difficult conversations, and make decisions based on reality not political ideology or brinkmanship. It's the name calling and the fear mongering by the conservatives on the hill that we can no longer afford.

Apples, Afghans, and Away....

September in Michigan brings ripe apples and fresh cider. The cider mills typically open the week after Labor Day and close for Thanksgiving. This morning I made my first cider and Michigan-grown apple run:

The knitting is not actually an afghan, but a prayer shawl. I made much progress on it on our Labor Day weekend trip to the tip of the Bruce Peninsula to stay in Tobermory, Ontario. Not to be confused with Tobermory, Scotland which we have also visited, and long to return to one day.

This trip to Canada used to be an annual pilgrimage for us from 1977 to about 1995. We looked in our travel journal and discovered that our last trip here was 2003. Too long! More people from all over the world have discovered this remote natural area, so it was more populated than we remember. But the nature is still lovely:

Photos above and below are from my Saturday morning solitary hike on Burnt Point loop (the link is to an exquisite Flickr photo of the interior of the trail. It was too dark for me to get such a good one.) I had the entire 3.7 km. to myself. The silence and beauty were stunning!

On Sunday, five of us took the water taxi over to Flower Pot Island to do some hiking and exploring:

Here's the little flower pot:
For scale, here's my adult son in front of the other flower pot:
And tho' inuksuit
are not culturally appropriate to lower Canada, it seems that many can't help themselves when there are rocks and trails to mark:
But can you blame them when they are the official logo for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver?

It was a great weekend with sun, fun, friends, and 10W30 Canadian Lager !

Thursday, September 03, 2009

One of the reasons I love yoga....

It's the end of summer, the week between yoga sessions. I attend yoga classes 3x per week, plus practice at home. But this week I'm really missing my classes.

Seane Corn Demonstrates "Body Prayer" from Speaking of Faith.

Just so happens this week's episode of Speaking of Faith is a summer repeat with Seane Corn. If you're not familiar with SOF, take a look/listen at the link.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Buried in Books

These are my "to read" books pictured with the ongoing red knitting (note that I have not yet stopped.)
The top book was a freebie won from Rev. Songbird. I'm really looking forward to this read, since I've enjoyed Marilynne Robinson's previous books.

I've recently completed Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo and The Likeness by Tana French (links are to my reviews are posted to Library Thing). I have been reading a lot this summer and during travels, we've been listening to books as well. The current Playaway book is In the Woods, the prequel to The Likeness. We should finish with that this weekend. I try to make a point of writing reviews on my LT account, so I won't duplicate that here. The link to my account is over to the right.

Summer is drawing to a close. It's really quiet around town these past couple weeks, which I have enjoyed immensely. School starts back next Tues. and the community Fall Festival is the following weekend, so the quiet will soon end.

I'd like to wind a warp this afternoon, so I'll leave you with some zinnias:

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Fast and Slow....


Blog for above is here

Go to Bonnie's post.

As for me....I'm inert.

We have a wedding to go to later today.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Bamboozled and Cruising....

The title of this entry comes from here: FTC Business Alert. I have to admit I'm a skeptic when anyone uses "environmentally friendly" as their marketing ploy. I want to know just exactly how they can make that claim. And I am especially skeptical when it comes to manufactured fibers. So my initial suspicions about bamboo fiber have been verified.

The new issue of Handwoven was waiting for me when I got home from conference last Sunday. One of the projects in this issue is the "Budget Bamboo Shawl" by Madelyn.

I have a friend in need of a prayer shawl. Knitting a shawl is not a timely endeavor, however weaving one can go much quicker. So I headed out to JoAnn's and picked up the requisite number of balls of Bamboo Crochet Thread at $2.79 a ball to create this shawl for Sue. I picked the color "Still Pool". In keeping with the FTC statement (above) this yarn is labeled "viscose from bamboo", but that hasn't kept them from sticking "Friendly to our Earth" on the label. sigh. Ah well....I won't make that claim to Sue.

Plans are to wind this warp tomorrow and weave the shawl next week to have it ready for delivery before her daughter leaves for college in two weeks.

Not much fiber happening today as we head out for the 15th annual Woodward Avenue Dream Cruise. Think American Graffiti on steroids.....or perhaps Geritol?

We will watch stock and modified cars from the past roll by. There will also be a few current "hot" cars. We will eat 1950's food in a tent with a dj spinning cruise music from the 50's through the 80's.

And we will wonder if we are totally out of our minds for enjoying this in 90 degree temps.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Do You Suppose......

I passed a young woman on the public library steps today. She was wearing a black bra and lacy red camisole with white 'boy cut' shorts.

Do you suppose she has that recurring dream?

You know, the one where you're on your way to an important exam and when you look down, realize that you forgot to get dressed? No matter what you do through the rest of the dream, you just can't get dressed.

Monday, August 10, 2009


This is what awaited me when I got home from Michigan League of Handweavers workshops and conference yesterday:
The first one of the strikes me as the perfect metaphor for right now.

: {adj.} 1. (of fruit or grain) developed to the point of readiness for harvesting or eating.

That is certainly the case for this tomato.

Having just returned from five days of immersion in fiber, the time is also ripe to harvest all the information from Daryl's "Sewing with Handwoven Fabric" workshop and Sharon Alderman's "Snazzy Yarns Seminar".
That "to do" list includes:
  • Make a muslin of the jacket pattern we drafted in Daryl's class and refine the fit.
  • Develop a plan to study Sharon's book, Mastering Weave Structures. I've read through the book before, but seeing the fabrics in person was an "aha" moment (or a rather large collection of such moments). All of the information from Sharon dovetailed beautifully with what I learned from Randall Darwall at Penland last summer.
When fruits and vegetables ripen, it is time to do some transformative thing with them: prepare them for the table, preserve them for future use, or harvest the seeds for next year's crop. If you don't do anything with the ripe produce it begins to rot and go to waste. And so it is with the information I've been accumulating over so many years and seminars. Time to make use of it.

Ripe: {adj.} 2. (of a cheese or wine) fully matured: a ripe Brie

It so happens that this year marks the 50th anniversary of Michigan League of Handweavers and the Conference theme, Golden Reflections, was a wonderful celebration of that milestone. Friday evening was the fashion show and 50 year retrospective. The planning committee did a marvelous job of providing a concise and very entertaining look at the past 50 years of handweaving in Michigan. They capped the evening with a retrospective fashion show with handwoven garments from the past five decades. It began with a 1950's style handwoven bridge apron (remember the 50's?!)....Proceeded through a handwoven hotpants ensemble.......and finished with a marvelous contemporary swing coat. I failed to take pictures, but Daryl has a great selection of them here. (I am now convinced that many weavers truly do not get rid of anything.)

Ripe: {predic.} 3. arrived at the fitting stage or time for a particular action or purpose.

One of the ongoing jokes through the retrospective program was that we were looking at some "vintage garments" and many of the attendees are "vintage weavers". As a collective group, today's weavers tend to be people of mature years, more often women than men. We have a lot of experience and information. But the time is ripe for us to cultivate that next generation of weavers and stimulate enthusiasm for this marvelous means of expression and creativity. Get out there. Take classes. Teach someone to weave on any loom available. Evangelize your weaving!

Ripe: {adj.} 4. (of a smell or flavor) rich, intense, or pungent.

I have come home to 90 degree temps. and 100% humidity. The first thing I did when I got home yesterday was clean a toilet and scrub out a sink....before I brought a single thing in from the car! It is definitely time to deal with the ripening laundry that I brought home, and freshen up the bed and bath linens.

But first, I think a tomato sandwich on home made bread, with just a touch of home made pesto is in order.

With thanks to this little guy, who helped to keep my tomato plants bug free (if you "click to biggen", he looks like he's covering his cute!):

So....what is ripe in your life?