Tuesday, September 01, 2015


I promised books, then I disappeared!  But I'm back and here are the books I've been reading.

First I'll cover recent releases that I've read and liked:

The Children Act by Ian McEwan is a look into the life of Fiona Maye, a leading High Court Judge who presides in the family court.  She has a  number of well known decisions in her resume' including a difficult case dealing with the separation of conjoined twins.  At age 58 she has achieved great professional standing which has come at significant personal cost.  Her thirty year marriage is in crisis, and her childlessness is a lingering regret.
In the midst of this she is determining a case of a 17 year old boy, Adam Henry, months from the age of majority, whose family is refusing life saving treatment for religious reasons.  Fiona takes the unusual measure of suspending court proceedings to travel to the hospital and meet Adam to determine if the refusal of treatment is Adam's own wish or if he is being prevailed upon by his parents and religious community.
The book is a relatively quick read, but the brevity belies the complexity of the story and the lives depicted therein.  Kudo's to McEwan on this one.

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra.  Okay..this is a war novel so not a sunny story.  But the writing, character development, and story telling are so well done that this book is my current favorite of 2015.  It opens at the end of 2004 in a small war torn Chechen village with 8 year old Haava whose home has just been fire bombed by Russian forces, killing her father who is her only surviving relative.  Her father's friend and neighbor, Akhmed, covertly takes her to the remains of a hospital in the neighboring town with the hopes that she will be concealed and cared for by a female doctor that he has heard of, Sonja.

The Chechen wars (2) covered in the novel take place from 1994 through 2004, but the author has a talent for telescoping time to give the reader an over view of the history from hundreds of years ago, through the Stalin era, and the recent decade of war.  In various parts of the story, he extends the view into the future of some of the characters to bring the story to the present day.

The three main characters, Haava, Akhmed, and Sonja are beautifully drawn and they are connected through the story by many different threads.  Some scenes in the book are written unflinchingly, while others show the art of dark humor.  Though the novel informs the reader about a long history, the actual story arc takes place over less than 5 days.  This debut novel reveals to us an author with a rare level of talent for story telling.

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf is a book I really didn't want to read because it is the last of the author's work and the thought of no more new Kent Haruf books waiting to be read was just too sad.  He passed away in Nov. 2014 and this book was released posthumously.  Like  The Children Act, this is a short, dense book.  The author once again brings us to Holt, Co. where widower, Louis Waters, is visited by a neighboring widow, Addie Moore, with a suggestion.  Both characters are in late life, both are lonely, and both have lived under the microscope of a small town.

I cannot think of a single author who is more generous to his characters than Kent Haruf, and he continues that in this book.  The story is poignant and yet very real.  And for long time Haruf fans, characters and places from his previous novels make cameo appearances.  It's the kind of book you close with a sigh of satisfaction and yet a longing for more. 

Anne Enright's The Green Road is long  listed for this year's Booker Prize.  The story takes place on the west coast of Ireland and is really a story about a matriarch, Rosaleen Madigan, and her four children.  In the first half of the book, we are given brief back stories on each of the 4 children who have scattered from the family home as fars as the U.S. and Africa.  Starting with Hannah, the youngest, the reader gets the first glimpse of Rosaleen. She has taken to her bed in protest of Dan's (oldest son's) announcement that he is joining the priesthood.  We are given to conclude that this isn't the first time she's done so as it is named her "horizontal solution".

The second half of the book deals with a Christmas homecoming that Rosaleen has called, inviting all four children home.  It is telling that the homecoming does not include the significant others of the children, except for the oldest daughter, Constance, who true to her name has become Rosaleen's care taker.

In summary, it is a well written dysfunctional Irish family story.  Enright creates her characters in the circle of a harsh spotlight: all beauty marks and flaws are on display.

Well....this appears to be long enough for now.  So not only am I starting with new releases, I will also end there for now.  Happy Reading!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Summer Distractions

Sorry for the silence. Let's just say there hasn't been any grass growing under my feet, wild flowers maybe but not grass:
Mock sunflower

Wild Iris

Ladies Slippers.  

I call this particular location "Imelda's Closet" for Imelda Marcos.

All of the above from here:
Creating:  The thing that I have been best at creating this summer is havoc.  No pictures of that today.
There has been spinning....much of it spindle spinning which works nicely in the above location.  My Jenkin's turkish spindles have been happily producing little yarn turtles.
Not much weaving and knitting has been peripatetic at best.

Reading....Do I have a book list for you!!  That will have to wait for a later post.  Currently my reading is happily ensconced in the Middle Ages.....nonfiction, ancient writing, and fiction.  Barbara Tuchman's A Distant MirrorThe Icelandic Sagas (these are a total and happy surprise), The Nibelungenleid, and Kristin Lavransdatter.  Not to worry, that is my personal obsession right now.  I do have some more contemporary titles to share with you, later.....

Thursday, April 16, 2015


Last week I spent a lot of time winding this warp:
I was taking the cookbook approach to weaving and pretty much copied the Conservatory pattern from Kelly Marshall's book Custom Woven Interiors

This was the first Rep weave project I've done on my own, even though I've been weaving since 1980.  Until I got my Macomber Loom, I didn't have a loom that would hold enough tension to do Rep Weave.  Then last year I took Rosalie Nielson's workshop on designing for Rep weave. 

Last week the time was right:  I had the yarn, I have the loom, I had Kelly Marshall's "recipe", I had  Rosalie Nielson's instructions, and since spring is dragging it's feet I had the time!  All systems GO!

Winding a warp with so many colors at 48 epi on a warping board is not for the faint of heart, but it can be done.....one block at a time.  It did inspire me to download images for building a warping reel from Edward Worst's instructions for a project for hubby. (It's page 11 of this document...thank you Handweaving.net!)

Dressing the loom produced all the usual glitches...threading errrors, repair heddles to fix those errors, sleying errors.  The only error I didn't make was a crossed warp...oh, and the tension stayed even through out the weaving.  (By that sentence you know that the warp is off the loom....no weaver says those things until it's all over.)

On to the relaxing part: throwing the shuttle and swinging the beater.
I slept really well last week, after weaving a couple hours every day.

This morning I set the table:
Can you tell I'm really happy with the outcome? 

It usually takes me awhile to like a finished project but not this time.  The only problem is that I did not pay attention to the weft directions in the book.  I had it in my head that the thick weft was used doubled, and the book calls for it to be used as single strand.  As a result, the placemats are about 22" long....kind of long for placemats.  But hey, we like to spread out around here.

Now I'm dragging out all of my yarns, notebooks, and graph paper with an eye to another Rep project. 

May all your projects make you happy!

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

10 Books on Tuesday

It's been awhile since I've posted about books and Carole has provided the opportunity to catch up on that with the last 10 books read.

With the start of WWI being 100 years ago, it seems that WWI related books abound.  I started reading a lot of WWI nonfiction back in August 2014....I guess you could call it commemorative reading.  Since then it seems like WWI books are chasing me down.  The first 5 books on my list fall into that category:

1.  An Officer and A Spy by Robert Harris is an historical fiction account of the Dreyfuss Affair in France from 1894 through about 1905 in the voice of Colonel Piquard.  Piquard gained a post as the head of military intelligence as a reward for his participation in the court martial of Alfred Dreyfuss.  Once inside the intelligence machinery, he doubts the validity of the evidence used against Dreyfuss and believes that he has found the real spy who gave information to the Germans.  The story is critical in understanding anti-semitism in France and Germany at the end of the 19th century.  It also helps the reader to understand how the Franco-Prussian War in the 1870's was never really resolved and provided tinder to fuel WWI.

2. Dead Wake by Erik Larson is a narrative nonfiction account of the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915....the 100th anniversary of the sinking will be on May 7.  If you're familiar with Larson's work (Devil in the White City, In the Garden of the Beasts, Thunderstruck....)  this work does not deviate from his excellent research and story telling.  I found it engrossing to read about what was going on in the German submarine, the British Intelligence Service, the White House of Woodrow Wilson, as well as on the Lusitania.

3. Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear is the first Maisie Dobbs mystery that I've read.  The mystery series is shaped by the aftermath of WWI.  Maisie is part psychologist, part investigator who has her own business as a detective in London.  This story had me hooked and I went back to read the first in the series:

4. Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear.  Not sure how this series has been around for 10 years before I found it.  The author's relationship to WWI can be read about here.  I like the writing and the attention to detail (dress, cars, living arrangements) that are true to the era.  This would make a great BBC mystery series...think Downton Abbey costuming.

5. Mr. Mac and Me by Esther Freud is the story of 12 year old Thomas Maggs, a boat drawing son of a pub owner on the Suffolk coast of England.  One day a mysterious figure in a dark cape, smoking a pipe, appears on the beach and Thomas begins to spy on him.  That figure is Charles Rennie Mackintosh, or Mac as he is referred to in much of the story.  Just as friendship begins to emerge between Thomas and Mac, war is declared with Germany.  The story is one of the homefront during a brutal war told from the eyes of a 12 year old boy.  It provides an oblique view of Charles Rennie Mackintosh and is fueled by the fact that he did spend time in this region during the time period covered.  I'm a fan of "The Mackintosh Style" which is what drew me to the book.....and there I was right back at WWI.

6. Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant by Roz Chast is a graphic novel by the New Yorker cartoonist that tells the story of dealing with her aging mother and end of life issues.  Well done but not a happy story.

7. Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande.  This was recommended to me by a friend who is dealing with a brain tumor.  I am so glad that I read it and have pushed my husband into reading it as well.  PBS did a Fronline episode with the author.  I highly recommend both.  Again, not happy reading, but a good conversation starter for some very difficult topics.

8. Lila by Marilynne Robinson  This is the third of the Gilead series of stories by the author, but it is very good as a stand alone novel.  Lila is a character that appeared in the previous two books, but very little about her is revealed in those books.  This story is entirely about her.  The story begins with a young child who is locked out and crying on a front porch when a woman comes along and snatches her away.  The child is Lila, the woman is her rescuer, Doll.  The two become attached to a group of migrant workers who struggle through the dust bowl and depression until times become too hard for that group to hold together.  By then Lila is an adult and sets out on her own finding day labor where ever she can.  While living in an abandoned shack she meets Reverend John Ames, a much older man.  A complex love story ensues.  Beautifully written, slow and painful at times, it is well worth the praise it has been given.

9.  Burial Rites by Hanna Kent.  I don't remember how I came across the book, but it was a great find.  The story is based on the true story of Agnes Magnusdottir who was convicted of killing her employer in Iceland in 1828.  While awaiting execution orders to be ratified in Finland, she is interred on an isolated farm with a family who serve as her death-row custodians.   As part of her confinement, Agnes is to have spiritual direction of a clergyman.  This is a reluctant young pastor whom she has requested.  I loved the story and the textile processing tidbits added to my enjoyment.

10. Montana 1948 by Larry Watson  Told from the viewpoint of (yet another) 12 year old boy, this beautifully written novel tells the story of a year in the life of a Montana sheriff's family that would forever change their life and their relationships with their own family. The story is told through the eyes of the sheriff's son as he remembers events later in life.  It deals with bigotry, injustice, and the misuse of power by the privileged over less fortunate people.  It is really more of a novella and  was originally published in 1993, but is our book group discussion book this week.

So, those are my most recent 10 books.  Am looking forward to clicking around to see what others are reading.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Spring Try Outs....

Well...I didn't intend to be away from the blog so long.  Guess I just got buried by a snow drift for awhile.  And here it is spring, or what passes for spring in Michigan.  And there is weaving to be done:

So I have this warp, that you can see in the upper right quadrant of the photo.  It needed a weft, but I wasn't sure what color.  Time for spring try outs!  Excuse the tails left on the front of the woven fabric, but I wasn't taking notes and just relying on the tail of yarn to help me remember what color the weft was.

Another view of the same thing:

After washing and considering for awhile, I decided to go with the turquoise weft:
The weave structure is a turned M's & O's draft.  It looks very "waffel-y" when off the loom and wet finished, except both sides are presentable.  The colors differ just a little between the two sides.  All of the yarns are 8/2 rayon, except the lime green in the warp, which is 8/2 bamboo.  As always, you can click on the photo to see bigger.

Okay...still a lot of weaving to do, so I'm headed up to the looms.
Later I'll have to tell you about the great workshop we just had with Laurie Autio last week.  A lot of information that I'm still digesting! 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Spinning down the st*sh...

I've been doing some spinning and plying during the current cold snap.

First up some Polwarth which was spun in 2014, plyed in 2015:
This is about 10 oz of Polwarth, two ply.  It wraps at about 18 epi.  It's been washed but not re-skeined, so it's a bit untidy looking.  This is about 1/3 of the roving that I have to spin.  I'm thinking that I'll weave with this.

Next some Pygora:

This is about 4 oz and 550 yds. all spindle spun in 2014.  Wheel plied in 2015.  In real life the blue is a little more saturated.  I'm thinking shawlette for this yarn.

And this North Ronaldsay was spun and plied in the past couple days:
It's 100 grams and about 275 yarns.  The fiber was purchased when we were on Orkney in 2011.  I'm thinking this will be a hat, something like this.

My apologies for the picture quality above, but it is January in Michigan....low light prevails.

Also there's some knitting happening:
More socks, and believe me it is wool sock weather!  This is Paton's Kroy yarn and these were started in the new year.  I was all the way to the ribbing on the left sock last night when I finally saw how I was missing a stitch in the pattern...I had been thinking there was a problem all evening.  Once I found it. there was nothing to do but rip back.  Otherwise I would be looking for that error every time I put on the sock.  So in two evenings these should be done.

One more thing to show that was completed in 2014, but I had to keep it under my hat until gift giving was done (pun intended):
This was for my sister...and completed before the ground was covered in snow.  The yarn is Galway.  the pattern is Cloche Divine by Meghan Jones.  I made the crown a little deeper than what the pattern called for.

And that's what I've been doing to stay warm.  You?

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Looms Day

Meg at Unraveling posts a New Year's Day challenge to post photo's of what's on the loom.

Here's my entry.

On the Macomber:

A 12 shaft version of circles and stars in a combination of 10/2's mercerized and unmercerized cotton. 

Here's another view:

And on the Compact:

Trees...evergreens.  They were started for Christmas. but I'm thinking that evergreens will always work up at the cabin in the woods.

Happy New Year, everyone!