Wednesday, December 31, 2008

On the cusp of a new year - resolutions

Most years I refrain from making resolutions - there are so many I make privately I fail to keep. Losing weight: I promise myself each year I can do it. I can - but don't. This year I'm going public with a new resolution - to reduce my stashes of papers, fabric and yarn. Like chocolate, I've rarely met a fabric or yarn I don't like. So much potential in bolt and skein... and now, so many stashes! But I'm determined - I know I can do it! And I will. I will. I've started already... and more on that later. Today I looked through two large tubs of stashed yarn to put a good-sized box together for someone I don't know, though I've got much sympathy for her. She's a fugitive from an abusive husband, and her social worker, a friend of mine, asked for knitting yarn and needles she can use to knit for her children. I have to admit, I won't miss the yarn, I have so much - and it's a pleasure to give her some good stuff too. There's enough of each kind for her to make some warm things for her children - including sweaters - and something nice for herself as well. Feels good to have one box less to put away; and of course, while doing this I also found enough raw materials for several days of stash-busting projects.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Why I've been quiet...

It's been a little busy around here. First, there's the Hector tatting conference - about 65 happy tatters, a bunch of vendors, stellar teachers and great classes - plus a lot of stuff to organize. Fortunately, I'm not in it alone - there are at least six other people who are doing a LOT to work on this event, and the many hands make it a wonderful, warm patchwork quilt of an event. But there are always details large and small, from dietary concerns to last minute emergencies and changes, and this week's crop of them has sent me to hit the left-ovr jelly-beans harder than intended!

By coincidence that turned out to be partly fortunate, I had fewer writing assignments than usual in the past six weeks or so, which has given me a lot of time to tend to the conference and work in a few creative directions. The result has been two new publications of patterns, "Here Be Dragons," a collection of beaded dragon patterns, and "Basketats" a collection of tatted baskets. Both use techniques I think of as innovative, though received wisdom says there's nothing really new under the sun. Or is there? The dragons use a "thread management technique" to keep the beads mostly on the inside and chains on the outside. I haven't seen this technique before, but it doesn't mean this is unique.

Then, for the baskets, I went off in a number of different directions. That's the good thing about a collection of patterns - it is possible to jump on your creative horse and ride off in several different directions at once. I tried using thick hemp cording to make a relatively large basket - a great effect, I thought; and thinner hemp cord also had such great advantages and was such fun to tat with, I ordered a whole bunch of it for the sho. Hemp and linen are personal fiber favorites, but it's not often practical to tat with them. In this case it was! Some of the baskets needed stiffening, others didn't. Using pearl tatting with a heavier core thread added body to a few of the baskets; but the Celtic-style baskets did want stiffening to stand up. Then there's one that takes its shape from very long bugle beads.

All in all, it was a wonderful experience to get my ideas realized as concrete and useful things, ones I hope are also beautiful. Both the dragons and the baskets are ideas I've been sketching, tatting parts of and playing with for a very long time. All this and the Hector Tatting Seminars coming together in a relatively short time. It's a great way to finish the winter, feel productive and greet the warm weather that still stubbornly refuses to show the slightest trace of itself... yet. Sure, six weeks from now we'll have hot days to make us eat our words, but this does seem to be the winter that doesn't want to quit!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Socks! These are a selection of models made for - and at - the "Sock Salad" workshop at the studio February 2. Two fabulous participants, great knitters who seemed to like each other as well as the class - and my cooking. There was a lot of preparation to create the workshop, but everyone, including me, learned a lot from it. Still not sure how I feel about toe-up socks, though starting them is literally neat. I don't like the heels though, they're a bit pointy for my taste, and too closely resemble commercially knit socks. Behind the socks is some just-finished handspun. Back in January, while I was a vendor at our area "Rock Day," repeating to myself, "Remember, you're a vendor, here to sell things, not to buy them," this affirmation was drowned out by a 4-ounce bump of "Blueberry Pie" merino-tencel. It was the kind of soft that makes you want to pet it, and of course, it followed me home. It wanted to be finely spun, a job for which the Majacraft Little Gem volunteered, and with one thing and another, the two half-filled bobbins seemed to have a lot of yardage on them - they took 2 hours to ply! At the moment, the yarn seems to want to be a scarf, but there's another one to do first. To the upper left, the blue scarf (Naturally Nazareth "Winter," a knitting worsted weight) was my first foray into knitting modular triangles. Enormous fun, so the next one, the rosy one in the center, was made on size three needles using my own hand-dyed tussah silk. I like the feel of this fiber, it's soft and tough at the same time; no silkworms died, also no child labor was invovled. And it takes the dye beautifully. I used some 6" needles - ones cut down by a friend who removed the end-caps from commercial needles, then hack-sawed off about 8" of upper needle before cleverly replacing the ends. Voila! Small and easy-to-pack needles. The dark Mardi-Gras colored scarf-in-progress is the final iteration, one I'll teach at a workshop in April. Instead of triangles, the modular pieces are sort of braided, and lace is also involved. I'm almost ready to write the pattern for this one. Lastly, there's the project that took much of late January and early February, a hand-made handkerchief for an on-line exchange. The tie-dyed cotton was chosen for my exchange partner, Bina, who loves purple. Of course she needed to also have a hanky-case (crocheted and felted wool). The edging is my original "Stand Up and Cheer" edge, a single shuttle edging I've had in Tatting Times and more recently put in "Tatting Elegant Edgings." Here's the pattern:
Ring A: 6-6-4-2-2-4
Ring B: 4±4-4
Leaving enough of a thread-space to prevent distortion, join to first p on Ring A.
Ring C: 4+ (to last p, Ring B) 2-2-2-2-2-2-4
Join to second p on Ring A
Repeat from beginning for length needed.

Tat last Ring A before corner: R: 6-6-4-6
Tat Rings B and C.
Then tat center corner R: 4+ (to last p, last
Ring C) 4-2-2-2-2-4-4
Tat second corner Ring A: 6-6-6+ (to corresponding
P of previous corner Ring A) 4
Tat Ring C, joining to center corner R
Resume tatting the usual Rings A, B and C

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

January 30, 2008

If loading the picture worked, here's a partial view of some of the projects I've worked on completing this month - it's been a time of trying to get something done every day - or at least as often as possible. So hopefully you're seeing a pair of completed brown hand-knitted socks for almost-grandson Kyle - he got them and immediately put them on and pronounced them "Cool!" - the hoped-for response from someone with large feet. Lime-green washcloths were ornamented with tatting to send to my daughter, so she's got a taste of home in Panama. As a prolific tatter and designer, I always have lots of snippets of lace around, things that got started and abandoned thanks to a mistake, or things that were simply experiments. I like these on linens. I've found that towels, pillowcases and kitchen linens with tatting on them are just much more fun to use. and then there's that blue sock - it's an experiment in toe-up knitting for a workshop I'm giving this Saturday.

More later...