Monday, January 26, 2015

Trying to keep track of work in progress would be scary. Really. I’d hate to even try to guess at the number of projects that pot along, while some even get finished. I’m trying to crochet at least one Seneca Santa hat a day this month, so here is this week’s crop. Had to get more yarn out of storage – and here’s another scary thing – there isn’t a huge amount left. Enough for this year? Maybe. But I definitely need more, and where it’s going to come from is currently a mystery.
For years, I’ve stockpiled a batch of rug wool. Quite a lot of it was orange, so a few weeks ago I dyed it a few other colors, then took four skeins out of shop stock to round out the colors. Orange, as it turns out, happily transforms in the dyepot into purple. There’s enough left over in the shop now for maybe two more rugs. These three are now, thankfully done. I’d like to sell them – I don’t need four of them (there’s another I did earlier on the back of the studio rocker). Nice warm fun crocheting them – they move fast with a size M hook and turn into substantial rugs. Not instantly, of course – these were in progress for about three weeks until winter storm Juno meant they got finished tonight. You can't see that they're actually pretty large - about 3 feet by four feet or so. As soon as I came up from the studio, there came a furious knocking at our kitchen door and two snow-dusted young people made me an offer I couldn’t refuse on clearing my driveway with their snowplow. Of course, it’s too dark to see what sort of job they did, and – another "of course" – it’s still snowing, so tomorrow it will need to be done again!
Yesterday I finished this quilt – it’s a disappearing 9-patch and it’s going to disappear to the Humane Society in another week or so, for their Mardi Gras silent auction. Can you see the cat theme?
I like being snowed in. Projects get started, projects get finished. Today I kept a promise I made to myself and began writing poetry again. I’ve been thinking poems in my head, but the past few years, the weight of fiber projects and the various other responsibilities in my life – I don’t even want to think about revisiting the almost-year-long slog of refurbishing my daughter’s house, just sayin’; and the article writing I do for the papers… well, the poetry fell out, and I need it, and I’ve felt the lack. Here’s part of the poem I wrote today, trying to get it to print here like a poem just doesn't seem possible, so look for those line breaks! – - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - The colors grey out of the day and the snow keeps falling// Silently piling in the hedgerows and the margins of the road// I reload the woodstove// cover you with a blanket,// whisper in your ear// when you wake up, the water will be boiling// but it will not yet be spring.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

When I looked at what I’ve accomplished this week, I felt a little let down… In sheer numbers, there isn’t as much done as I’d hoped. For instance, I’m only 9 hats along towards this year’s Seneca Santa goal of 100 … then again, this means I’ve got 47 weeks to work on the other 91, so that’s not so bad. Let me tell you about these hats – they’re fun to make, and they don’t take too terribly long to crochet. Then again, if you try to do more than four of them in a day, trust me – your wrists will hurt! I’ll start out with two strands of knitting-worsted weight acrylic yarn. You can – as with the blue/multicolored hat at the top/center/left – use one solid color and a bunch of strategically arranged scraps (I tried to crochet them in a sort of rainbow order). I use a size K or L hook, chain 2 (making the first stitch very loose) and then alternately single crochet and double crochet into that first chain stitch, until I’ve got at least 9 stitches (should be an uneven number). Then pull that first CH stitch as tight as possible to completely close up the hole, and crochet a double and a single crochet into each stitch around for a while – you’re crocheting in a spiral. When it looks just a little larger than child-head size (which will happen soon), crochet around for a while without any more increases) with a single in the double below and a double in the single below… you get it. When there’s a little more hat, if it looks too small, crochet 2 increases here and there (they have to be paired to maintain the pattern); conversely, if it’s too big, work some decreases, similarly paired. Keep crocheting until the hat is long enough to cover a child’s ears, maybe even allowing a little fold-up ease. Finish with a round of reverse single crochet – but make sure it’s stretchy - cut and sew in ends. What’s that stuff sticking out of each hat, you ask? I’m combining efforts with a world-class mitten-maker, so after I’ve used some yarn for a hat, I tie the hat to the rest of the skein for mittens. Big skeins get two hats. The complicated framed tatted doily is Randy Houtz’s design, called the “One Path Doily” because there’s only one round, which is an odd term to use when you consider the finished product is a square. I used size 30 thread, ecru with my own HDT in a complementary color; the thread size made it only about 5 inches across. I liked that the forms in this doily were quite different from anything I’d seen before. After a whole lot of thought, one of the tatters in our group chose two highly contrasting colors for hers, and it’s also stunning. I chose pink for my model patterns for Tatting Times, the February 2015 issue. Getting that finished this week should count for a whole lot of finished projects. On the left is my “Dancing Angels” edging, and you can see a partial angel in the upper right, under the small doily/coaster. Today it left for the printers; next week the finished copies will leave for their new homes in four different countries. You won’t see pictures of my house-cleaning in progress (which has to start in earnest tomorrow, now that Tatting Times is done) but then again, that’s a project that’s never finished!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Thought it might be time to revive the blog because I’ve made a lot of resolutions for this year. That is, if you consider resolutions and intentions to be the same, which in some respects, I do. A few years ago, I resolved/ intended/ AND carried through on the resolve to get rid of a lot of my stash… and within a year, somehow had a whole lot more. I’d say “through no fault of my own” – but of course, I was… um… materially involved. This year, my approach will be a little different. I will FINISH PROJECTS. Yes, really. Doesn’t mean I won’t start new ones, but I will also finish what I begin, including much that’s already been begun. And I’ll be keeping track. You are welcome to keep track with me, and please do share your own success stories.
So for the year’s first completed object, here is an afghan, which I was given four or five years ago, maybe longer ago? as uncompleted pieces. The crocheter, who had done a beautiful, consistent job at creating the squares, had apparently declined to either work in or sew in the ends. There was an odd number of pieces, and no indication of how they were meant to go together. So after some thought, I sewed them together in the pattern you see here – and crocheted a border, and carefully washed it (a few of the colors ran just a little). This past Sunday, it was raffled to benefit our local fire company’s expansion fund. It netted $68 for the fund, not as much as hoped, but not too shabby, either.
Sunday was preceded by Saturday, when I was a vendor at an area wool day. I’d dyed a lot of roving to bring, and it occurred to me right before the show that it might be nice for potential customers to see how the roving spun up, so I took two colors and spun them into yarn, just enough, I thought, to knit these fingerless mitts. Which I did.
Today I had to take Bill to the doctor, and grabbed the fuchsia yarn, plus some similarly colored mohair. Some years ago I’d started knitting a bag I intended to felt with the fuchsia, but stopped midway through. I pulled that out and started the hat while we were waiting. Finished it late this afternoon.
Meanwhile, while visiting with friendly family who dropped in, I picked up this ball of cotton (sugar and cream) I’d gotten some years ago as an uninteresting ecru, and then dyed in these slightly more interesting colors. Several months ago I came up with my own pattern for crocheting sturdy washcloths – here it is. CHAIN 30 SC in 3rd CH from hook. *DC in next stitch, SC in next stitch, continue from * across That probably leads you to finish with a SC. If it does, CH 3, skip first stitch, *SC in next stitch, DC in the one after that, repeat from * across. If you ended with a DC, then CH 1, SC in that first stitch, *DC in next stitch, SC in next stitch, continue from * across. You get the idea. You’re making a single crochet above the DC in the previous row, and a Double Crochet above the SC in the previous row. Continue until you’ve got a square. If you run out of thread, a rectangle is almost as useful (though maybe less useful as a gift). Optional: SC around the whole square, and /or crochet a round of reverse SC around the square. Three or four of these, tied up with a ribbon and some interesting soap are an appreciated present.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

No matter what else happens, December is getting-ready-for-the-holidays time, and I’m happy to say that by Christmas, almost all projects were complete, and presents wrapped. The infamous Spiderman afghan (infamous only because it took so long to make and I had to stop from time to time to let my hands recover - and at those times couldn't do anything else) which can be found here stitchnfrog.blogspot.com/2009/07/superhero-dream-catcher-afghan.html uses more than two pounds of yarn and took about a month.
That left Bill’s socks still to be made – and part of one still needs to be knitted.
I’ve been finishing projects, too – I came upon this partially-started one. It was an “I love coffee” needlepoint – but I don’t actually love coffee. I tolerate coffee – far preferring tea. So the “cappuccino” on the bottom became “Earl Grey” and the “Latte” at the top became “Chai;” I turned “I (heart) Java” into “I (heart) tea;” and I’m going to stick green tea in someplace. This needlepoint is 4.5 inches by 7 inches, which turns out to be 31.5 square inches of needlepoint. Which doesn’t look like much when you’re starting, but is actually, stitch by stitch, enough to remind me why I usually spend my needlework time doing something different. Did a little more on the needlepoint between starting this entry and now…
The “different stuff” included dyeing a few threads. I offered our group a handkerchief challenge before Christmas, and it was time to take up my own. But the linen hanky didn’t completely inspire me – it was the same color as the snow that keeps falling outside. One dye experiment later, it’s a psychedelic reminder of the summer of love. I suspect the edging for this had best be in some solid, staid color. Because 2014 arrived before I finished writing this – or to be precise, before I finished taking all the photos – I made a few January resolutions. They included sewing a tatted motif onto a book cover
(I think this motif was in Tatting Times about 9-10 years ago) and really, it looks a whole lot better than it does in the photo! and getting more done on my Civil War reproduction quilt.
The seven sisters motif was done before I penned this resolution, but I did get two easy blocks done today – “Neighbors” and “Empty Spools” and I’m working up to something harder within the next day – maybe one with curves.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

This has been a pretty full teaching year – and thank you everyone who’s been patient with me! I promise to be better at keeping up with things. I do, I do! There’s been a lot going on, so I really do have a lot to say. In the second half of the year, I taught in Amherst NY (Buffalo), Chelsea, Michigan, Salt Lake City Utah, and Cambridge Ontario (Canada) with a lot of great things going on in between, so I’m going to try to catch up in stages. At home there was a lot of writing work and the occasional glitch – like the two months when everything in the house seemed to break down needing either repairs or replacement, from the kitchen faucet to the light over my desk, bathroom appliances, the wood stove… well, you get the idea. Even the cat became extremely ill and seemed to be ready for that last ride to the vet – and then bounced back. So did most of the appliances; except another one that suddenly needs an expensive, more special replacement, through no fault of its own. In the shop, I got into a reclaimed-yarn dyeing project with my friend Sarah, who designs and makes gorgeous sweaters – all to be mailed away to the poorest people she can find. She’s shy about her ongoing good deeds and intentionally held everything up over her face. For the garden, I made five trips to my neighbor’s farm for a generous supply of sheep poop, and things burgeoned and grew, apparently loving the cooler, often rainy weather.
Of course, Bill's beloved flowers bloomed their little hearts out. Everything did well except the tomatoes, but we had lots of sauce still in cans from the previous year. The freezer became so packed with goodies there was, a few weeks ago, literally no space to put anything. We’ve started digging into our food stash and now there’s just a little room. I spent weeks, it seemed, processing stuff, including (if anyone’s hungry) enough eggplant for about 6 pans of eggplant parmigiana. We’ve finally gotten in the last garden stuff – two bushels of beets and about half a bushel of parsnips. I emptied and spread the contents of last winter’s compost bin and we’ve begun the one for this winter. (The summer bin is waiting to be topped off so it can simmer along until next spring.) There were a few funny surprises in the garden. I planted the squash twice because the first batch didn’t come up consistently – until it started raining and then the seeds that had been lurking underground had a change of heart. Some of the potatoes we planted that were not specifically seed spuds must have been irradiated because they lay there like rocks.
Another friend, also named Sarah, gifted me with tomatillos and jalapenos and I made quite a bit of salsa verde. This was my introduction to the stuff and I discovered I really, really like it. Every fall I’ve written quite a lot about wood and photographed the woodpile, which I don’t have to do again, but trust me, it’s gorgeous. I stacked most of it myself, with a little critical guidance from the old, wise one. And then I drove the old, wise one – twice – to the Cleveland Clinic where he got a new pacemaker and a better outlook on life. He came home and promptly began planting more flowers for next summer.
I produced – ahead of schedule, a new booklet of tatted star patterns called “Twinkle, Twinkle.” That was the result of a LOT of tatting, and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it all! Besides that, I’m particularly pleased that I won’t be struggling with cold weather, winter flu and a book at the same time in 2014. This is starting to sound like a Christmas letter, but it’s not yet Thanksgiving, so the year’s not over.
So you get to see part of the woodpile anyway. What can I say? It's that time of year. And good things are happening in the yarn shop. I did a bunch of dyeing… this is some of it… for sock yarn and a bulky that’s great for hats and fingerless mitts. And I made a facebook page for the yarn shop https://www.facebook.com/gracefulartsfibersyarnshop?ref=hl At the moment, I’m in pre-craft-fair production mode, so I leave this tale for the moment for the studio below where more things need to happen!

Friday, April 5, 2013

One week until the Finger Lakes Tatting Conference in Lodi. Our theme is stars! Last week I finished sewing stars from across the U.S. and Canada on the quilt and quilting around them. When I was almost done, an envelope with more stars appeared. Here is our Starry Night quilt – you can see almost all the stars. It’s hard to count them all, but Bill and I estimated there’s about 135 tatted stars on the quilt – that’s a rough estimate. Could be a lot more or a few less. I'm sorry that you'll have to tilt your head to see the quilt properly - the strip of sky which should be at the top is the clue you're looking for. Can you see the Big Dipper? The quilt will be auctioned off Saturday, April 13 at 7 pm. There’s a reserve of $250 on it, and we are accepting good-faith bids from outside our group – contact me with your phone number where you can be reached if you want to join the bidding at the time – or you can put in your high bid and you just might win! All the money from the quilt will go into our scholarship fund, to enable more tatters to attend the conference in the next and following years. Wish you could be with us! actually, we could probably fit about six more people though shhh! don't tell our registrar - she's already done a lot of hard work on the event and she thinks we already have a good number of participants. But we all know there's always room for another...

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

It’s snowing again. How can this be when the ground temperature is actually well above freezing? Bill explained this to me and it makes sense, sort of. “Upstairs” is colder. This does not explain to my satisfaction why the white stuff is actually sticking, but… whatever. Indoors, there’s a whole lot of tatting going on. Unfortunately, the camera’s focus is a little dicey, but for a rough idea, here’s the scholarship quilt in progress. Ten days ago, on a Saturday, we had a mini-quilting bee. The picture is blurry, but the real quilt which, thank goodness, is currently in the hands of our best quilter, is gorgeous and getting gorgeouser as more tatting is added. So I went back to work on tatting samples for various classes I’ll be teaching later this year. This is the continuous Catherine Wheel Star for the Finger Lakes Tatting Seminars in Lodi in April. Then in late May, more stars are coming to Spring Fling in Michigan. Even more stars than you can see in the photo. And then, in August at IOLI, there will be a sampler class. The beehive at the top is because the sponsoring guild is the Beehive Lacers… and there are a few little tatted bees among the flowers. For re-tatting, I’m thinking of using some size 150 cordonnet -I’d have to dye it first in small bits, but the idea of making a mini-sampler is appealing… I’ve got one more set of samples to do for these classes. Ideas are drawn out, they just need tatting. There were two spinning meetings in the past two months. So I’ve done a little handspun, but I haven’t yet had time to do anything with it. On the left is the most recent project, handspinning beaded yarn; on the right is the handspun plied with an interesting nylon novelty yarn. Once I get my plumbing straightened out – oh yes, there are two minor plumbing crises, one a particular problem because it involves the potty, which has not responded to conventional treatments, and in this small house, when it’s snowing, alternatives are not easily come by – then some dyeing will happen. Until then, life will be just a bit more complicated. It’s not a great time for this to happen – but I was trying to imagine a good time for plumbing issues to occur and frankly, I was drawing a blank on this.