Thursday, December 31, 2009

A good winter project arose, though I hadn’t been planning on it. But I was asked by a neighbor to come up with a possible backdrop for a program he directs, and the nature of the event made me think of afghans. This neighbor directs the Homelessness Marathon, ( a nationally televised and broadcast (on radio) 14-hour effort to bring the cause of homelessness to everyone’s attention. He wanted color in the background (his tv technies told him “anything but white”); I was thinking warmth. (unfortunately, a white stripe found its way in before I heard the technie announcement. Thus another project was born. Or maybe several! (Depending on time, help from others, etc.)

The idea is to have a bunch of homemade afghans hung behind the broadcast area (this is “talk” radio, so no one’s moving much). They generally broadcast outside, so the people involved in putting the program together are as cold as everyone else on the street – and this year we’re talking Detroit in February! Jeremy will drive the afghans out to Detroit when he leaves in mid-February; then he’ll leave them with a homeless shelter to be used by people who need them. I’m thinking perhaps some fleece blankets would also be good, as a backdrop for the afghans as well as more to give away.

So the top photo is the start of a one-piece afghan; the photo to the right shows the first pieces of a “Warm Up America” style afghan – this one will need to be assembled. This project is gratefully accepting donations of 7 inch by 9 inch rectangles for afghan assembly – I’ll need these no later than January 20. Any color but white! Unfortunately, I’ve got a lot of white yarn – but that can be used for putting the pieces together.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

One of this year’s major accomplishments was finishing “Tatting By The Book,” my second collection of bookmarks. While I was designing and tatting the bookmarks, at the back of my mind was this worry about the book’s cover. I couldn’t come up with an image of how it might look and this bothered me – all my ideas took me back to the same cover as the bookmark collection I did in 1997. Then I found this copyright-free illustration and altered it – after that, everything simply came together. Everything I wanted to get in managed to fit - all 17 of them! The printer did a great job – and I was able to get the first orders out in time for Christmas.

Secret Santa was terrific this year! Carol A. sent me some incredible presents – including this lovely fellow – he’s young, lively, and his round tummy says he likes chocolate almost as much as I do! He does seem to be a leprecaun, so I looked up Irish names and settled on Flannan - which means, if I recall correctly, "little red one." He accompanied a lot of lovely things including a pair of my favorite shuttles, chocolate (I got to them first!) a sparkly bag, beads, Lizbeth threads, including one color I haven't tried yet; a neat tin (with more candy) and a lot more good things.

Actually got my Christmas presents all done with a little time to spare – which I used to begin another project, of course. This was legitimate, according to my lights, anyway - because it fit my goal of using up “stash” yarns, in this case two yarns I’d been stockpiling that suddenly acquired a magnetic attraction to each other. This will be a shawl… literally wrapping up last year’s New Year’s resolution to make a significant dent in my stash of yarns. This year’s resolution has the same general nature but has to do with fabrics. I’m not much of a quilter, but somehow I’ve established a stash which has gotten seriously out-of-control. I’ve signed up to do a quilt show next November, so I expect I’ll be busy at the machine for much of the next few months.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Does anyone really have free time at this point in the year? My winter job has begun, but in addition to the holiday preparations, my attention is otherwise pleasurably distracted. I’m working on a long-promised bookmark pattern collection, having fun trying out some new patterns. These are two for the book, the gull-feather (in green) and the tiara bookmark (mauve). The book’s patterns are just about finished, thanks in part to a workshop last spring that tried out some new patterns, and thanks also to people in the Finger Lakes Tatting group who tried out a few more. Now it’s just re-checking and tatting time… and at this point in the year, what could be better?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Now that some of my projects have gone to their intended recipients, I can post a few of the things I was working on.

It was time to make a quilt for my friend June, who had a significant birthday. It has a few special features – garden print fabric; one of the borders has pens, pencils and paintbrushes, appropriate for a woman who’s a writer, editor and sometimes an artist as well; the small squares have conversational motifs like space men (she loves science fiction) cats (she’s graciously cat-sat more times than any of us can count) pumpkins (for a birthday near Halloween and other good things. I was so excited to give it to her, I forgot to photograph it, but June hung it on a clothesline and did the honors.

I also decorated a dish towel for a “Fall’oween” exchange organized by the Fringe Element tatting group – more specifically, by Ruth M. This went to a tatter in British Columbia… a trip I wish I could have taken myself, particularly after I learned more about the person who received it – Ruth’s sister!

Lastly, I had to do a Halloween story – before the holiday, of course – and this was my favorite photo. Something about the inflated Dracula in dreadlocks singing to an attentive chorus of little pumpkins tickled me. For some reason, the paper didn’t use this one, so now I feel free to share it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

This month turned out to be more action than talk! It took about two weeks of serious effort to stack the wood – just in time for when that white stuff suggested we needed a fire. How many hours went into this is hard to say. Stacking wood is, after all, both art and science. Under Bill’s mentorship, I’ve learned to search for the exact right piece for each place, which yields a far better result than having a fair amount of woodpile descend sooner or later on the unsuspecting gatherer. This happened to me a few times (about 30 years ago) but the impression was indelible. I did much, maybe even most of the stacking, but Bill did a lot as well. Of course, when I realized he was going to work on it, I was motivated to sneak out and start stacking before he could get there, so psychology helped get the wood stacked. Oh, and there’s mystery to wood-piles too – I’ll never completely understand why rocks seem to be part of the delivery. In case it's hard to estimate the size of this woodpile, we paced it out at about 30 feet long, six feet wide and five feet high!
The October 15 snowstorm was one of the earliest on record, but fortunately didn’t last long. I “enjoyed” it mostly from inside – for the past week I’ve had another early first – a nasty flu that sent me to bed with fevers that kind of came and went. Because I'm the wrong age-group for swine flu, it's got to be the other kind - and by now it's probably also fair to say I've got enough naturally-acquired immunities so I won't need a flu shot. Who'd have thought feeling green (around the gills) could be (ecologically) green as well?
At least, getting the woodpile done meant finally having a chance to tat. Lots of ideas want to come out in tatting. Here’s one of them, a Celtic-style snowflake with eight interwoven arms. It's slated for the next issue of Tatting Times. The next ideas are clamoring to be tatted - I can almost feel the thread I picked out vibrating!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Inspiration... it's a wonderful thing. But for the immediate future, I've got an awful mess in the yard - it's this winter's fuel supply, four cords of the good stuff (plus about half a cord left from last year). This is the pile with about half a cord already removed and stacked, with Bill's truck in the background, for scale. It's absolutely enormous. It comes in a dump truck of the size used by road crews to dump gravel on the highway when they're doing a really major job and don't want to make a lot of little trips. So instead of creating lovely new designs - and realizing this term is relative anyway - guess what I'll be doing for a while with whatever free time I have? At the moment, about five teenage boys with a surplus of energy could do great work here but alas, I don't know any close by.
Just want to quote someone I met at work, an artist who explained her work - which did not seem to include wood-stacking in the deal. Her name is Candy Lucas and she described her art as "neo-representational eclectic surrealism seeped (NOT steeped, she insists, but seeped) in metaphysics with a dash of psychedelic spirituality." I haven't seen her work, but I liked the words.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Earlier this month I was dyeing threads like mad to take to South Carolina for the Palmetto Tat Days. What a wonderful breath of fresh tatting air, neat people, Southern hospitality. As always, the absolute best is the people. It was better planned than ever before - and these folks routinely put on one of the most thoughtfully-planned and fun-planned events in the world! - and I even had a chance to take a class. I was a student in Sharren Morgan's angel class, which was fun for me, both because the pattern she designed is lovely, and also because she's such a great teacher. Visiting with friends is the most fun, and it was wonderful to catch up with people I treasure and hadn't seen in a while... And then it was back home to real life and work, including another huge writing project. And also, finishing designs for the Fringe Element Tat Days this coming weekend. This is another marvelous event, just across the northern border in Canada. (Those who haven't gone have been missing a real treat, including some really great tatters who don't travel south as much as we wish they would!) These are what I’ll be teaching –

Angels – the issue was getting the wings to form a sort of extended halo over the angel’s head so it wouldn’t be floppy – I used the balanced double stitch for the halo/wings. These angels have attitude as well as feet; they're made with Art-girlz charms, which get tatted onto the way one does with buttons. (If you've seen me lately, you know I've really, really gotten into using charms with tatting.)

And baubles – I love baubles and I’ve done a lot of different patterns for these. They’re fun, colorful - always good - come in a bunch of sizes and shape and open to quite a lot of variety in how you use them. However, the bead counts can be really, really tricky - a size 10 bead can be totally different here from a size 11. I enjoyed getting into quite a nice split-chain rhythm while covering the bangle.

This past week’s other huge project was cleaning off and refinishing the dining table. Anyone who’s been in my house knows how huge this is. I don’t think we’d seen the top of the table since before Bill’s heart surgery in April. I did the refinishing part with Bill’s help, and he tended to dream a bit while holding the sander, so the results are mixed, shall we say? We do have a very clean table, it can now be wiped with a damp cloth without raising blisters in the finish. (Not that the finish is anything to write home about. Spar urethane is good, but it majorly drips!) I celebrated by sewing a fall table runner to adorn the newly-cleaned table. This morning we debated. Should we put a bowl of fruit on the table? No…. we’re agreed, we’re still enjoying it relatively clean.
Next project will be stacking wood. That check on the table? That’s for four cords of the good stuff, supposed to be delivered this Friday. Probably two weeks of stacking work ahead thereafter.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Thanks to a new member of our tatting group, I entered a local fair. I didn’t have high expectations, particularly because it took me until several days past the deadline to actually reach the fair registrar. Actually getting my application in required an early-Sunday-morning rendezvous at a gas station several miles from my house, and a hand-off of descriptions and payment worthy of secret agent’s meet-up. Then, that evening, I drove my stuff to the fair, hoping for the best.
I intended to actually get to the fair and find out how I did - and see the other entries - but I couldn’t, in part because I’m working on the article that ate my life. It’s about Underground Railroad stations in my area of Upstate NY. Many are rumored, but few are verified. Well, duh! It was somewhat dangerous to advertise, kind of like selling tickets for your own funeral. Wherever you went, north or south, there were folks on both sides of the issue, and it was sometimes difficult to predict which side they’d favor. Of course, after the Civil War (or the War of Northern Aggression, if you ‘re a Southerner) there were many, many claims of Underground RR stops. Dare we say this could, in times of depressed real estate values, up the ante on property value? On the other hand, connect the dots between known stations and a lot of the disputed ones fall neatly in the middle. The editor is cheering me on, saying this could be an award-winning two-part or three-part or four part series, or simply a one-part one (depending, I suppose on the rest of the news). It could even be a book, the trouble being that two books on the topic (at least) have already been written. I like winning awards as much as the next person, so it’s a useful carrot to dangle in front of me. But there’s actually a lot of wiggle room between “could be” and is.
Which brings me back to the Trumansburg Fair. I went there after work this evening. It was a slightly subdued day at the winery. I suppose many people are saving the Labor Day weekend as their main chance to howl. Quite a lot of people came through, but only one noisy group – some very young people accompanying a youthful about-to-be-married pair. It would have been counterproductive to jump onto the counter and shout, “Don’t do it! You’re too young to make this sort of decision!” And besides, maybe I would be wrong (though I don’t think so). They came early in the day and were clearly accomplished party-ers, so the walls seemed to ring with silence after they left – despite a steady flow of other customers.
So I got to the fair to pick up my things and found SEVEN blue ribbons. I was flabbergasted! Here they are. Clockwise, starting with the left side of the back row: the tatted mystery doily, handspun novelty yarn, a crocheted hat, a felted knitted bag with knitted and crocheted leaves, also felted and appliquéd; a hand sewn mini bear, handspun and hand-dyed mohair yarn, hand-dyed and hand-knitted socks, and all those ribbons!
It should be noted that if the finer points of entering had been elucidated sooner, other people would also have entered and won ribbons instead of me. But for the moment, I’m going to gloat just a little, until I’m bored enough with gloating to go to sleep.

Friday, August 21, 2009

This is the weekend of the Great Big Family Wedding. Bill’s son Andrew is marrying my friend/ former tenant/former boss Sue on Saturday. For 25 years or so I’ve been saving the best afghan I ever designed and made – this is the occasion to gift it to people who will appreciate it, since Sue is one of the world’s great gardeners and Andrew also loves flowers.
In the meantime, I’m spinning yarn. Laurie (of the beautiful flax wheel) spun some yarn when she was here. By intention or because she was not used to my wheel, she did some rustic-looking thick and thin. I plied it with some thin handspun I spun for the occasion, loved the effect, and I’ve been spinning the rest of this batch up the same way, keeping Laurie’s separate so I can give it back to her later as something knitted.

This is what I’ve been spinning. I’ve got about another 6 ounces to go. The white dishpans should show how yellow this fleece is, even though it’s actually squeaky clean.
Got fair results for the stuff shown below: the bear and the doily won thirds, the mohair sweater I knit four times got a fourth – and my original tatted gloves won a blue (first)! This is the second year in a row I’ve won a blue for an original tatting pattern, so I’m happy… Bill liked the bear best and thought that should have won a blue. I’m hooked on bears, so of course I’ll keep making more of them!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

State Fair entries

With some wonderful cooperation from people at work – a boss who didn’t object to my knitting when there were no customers, and the customers who seemed to be taking a week off from relentless vacationing - I got my fair stuff finished in time to go to bed tonight... eventually.

Last weekend I was tatting almost non-stop (except for an afternoon spent spinning with our spinning group) and finished my tatted gloves – this is an original design. The tatted doily, 15” from point to point, is a pattern Doretha Albee published in 1995, in her newsletter “Knots and “Notes.”

The fair donates baby quilts to good causes, and this year’s sounded like an especially good one – “Friends of Karen” provides quilts and comfort for critically-ill children and their siblings, and I had a small brainstorm that felt original to me. I sewed flat tubes of cotton fabric and interwove them, then tied them together so they didn’t wiggle too much and added a border. I thought this might make a lightweight blankie for a feverish child or simply be a comfort in warm weather. It took more time than I expected, but came out well.

Have to admit I’ve been carrying my knitting with me everywhere in this past week, and finally finished the sweater yesterday. This is mohair I spun, dyed and knitted, the sweater pattern is as “original” as a top-down raglan could be, and I think it will be a good and useful thing to wear when the weather gets cold, with sleeves that won’t drag into other things I do, including cooking and needlework. I found the buttons - which won't show up unless you click on the image to enlarge it - at a JoAnn Fabric store that was shutting down, and really like the way they complement the sweater.

Lastly, the butterfly bear, which is also a sort of catalog of the various fiber things I do. This is also an original design, sportweight wool (from a sheep I knew) crocheted and felted, stuffed with wool, too. Then its clothing was knitted, the butterfly net crocheted and stiffened, and a small straw hat decorated with tatting. Can you see a tatted butterfly sewn onto its sweater, and another attached to the net?

Tomorrow I meet Ginny early in the morning outside the Amish market and we’ll be going up to deliver our things together. Ginny is putting in some amazing tatting she’s worked on for years… maybe she’ll get Best of Show and leave me a ribbon or two?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

There’s nothing like working on projects at the last minute – and I’m so backed up on things that need to be done… I love it! I really do – it’s marvelous to have so much I have to do that every moment is productive. Okay, maybe not so terrific as all that – it might be better to have just a little time off. That’s not happening anytime soon, though.

The mess of stuff in the photo represents some of my unfinished fair projects. As of now I’ve got less than 10 days to finish them all. Other things have gotten mightily in the way… like work. But in time off, I’ve finished one of them – three to go, one of these, as you might notice, a partially knitted sweater. Can I do this without killing my right hand – or putting myself back into the unsympathetic hands of the last hand-surgeon I saw? (What do you expect? She asked. You do handwork. And consider your age! I did, feeling wrinkles – metaphorically, at least - spring forth as I temporarily shriveled into someone 30 years older… She was perhaps 10 years younger than I, and I’ll bet I work out more regularly at the gym than she does. And yes, this does impact on the health of your hands, along with everything else.)

At any rate, work, the sort I do for other people, will ensure no unbroken stretches of tatting or knitting, so my hands are safe,
though these projects just might remain unfinished up until the last moment.

More pleasantly, the second distraction to juggle in with the mix – work being the first distraction from real life – has been a stream of visitors – all some of my favorite people. It began when our friend Charles was in town from Virginia to be part of his son’s wedding to one of the most beautiful young women I’ve ever seen.

Then my friend Laurie came with her fiancé, Danny – both lovely, easy-going individuals who know a lot of different things, which makes conversations engrossing. Last weekend, K and Sheila were here for a tatting workshop I arrange for the shop every summer. The day after the conference, we visited for a while in the shop and even had a sort of picnic lunch downstairs (K’s husband is in a wheelchair and this was easiest for him). Another set of friends is due sometime next week, when they’ve had a surfeit of a family wedding further upstate. (And somewhere in there I’ve got to get the fair stuff finished and delivered!)
One of the best things a visitor can bring to you is good conversation – not only news from elsewhere but also their own ideas to leaven what you yourself are thinking.

Laurie not only brought great conversation but also the gift of a spinning wheel, this flax wheel of possibly 19th century vintage. It needs a little fixing and TLC, but the wheel is true and it looks like it will spin sweetly. I’ll be taking it to for its first repairs in a few weeks (after the fair stuff goes in…)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The studio elves have been working on a variety of projects. This object (slightly gaudy, okay, but I was trying out a bunch of projects here) is the first iteration of designs for a tatting-with-buttons workshop next summer. The next iteration should be more sedate – I think the button band, around the circumference needs no beads and smaller buttons while the top needs smaller thread and perhaps just a little glitz. I did like the Solomon spiral in the front with a button center – it’s a bit of a challenge, but it worked out well. The button spiral and the Celtic motif at the top are intended for the August Tatting Times, as is the chatelaine pattern in front - as a bookmark, instead of as a chatelaine. The needle-book in front is a re-envisioning of an amulet bag from one of my “Tatting With Buttons” books – this is a whole lot of fun to do – it’s block tatting on a larger scale.

Meanwhile, I thought I’d take advantage of summer sun – as if there were any – to embark on a massive wool-washing project. I bought four fleeces from the shepherds up the hill; mostly Corriedale crosses, with one Romney. I hadn’t remembered that back in February I’d found one grey fleece totally irresistible, but it is beautiful. I thought I’d dye it and try having the colors blended when it’s milled into roving. The plan is to wait until midwinter, when the mill puts processing on sale. This means washing now, then storing the fleece in mouse-proof containers in the barn, then shipping it out much later. This feels like taking plan-ahead to a fine art. So there it is, drying on the porch, and yes, ma’am, behind it are indeed three bags full of additional fleeces.

I took a little time out from tatting this morning to card what turned out to be about five ounces of dyed and grey fleece into rovings. The two on the left went through the carding machine four and five times instead of a mere three.

Then I spun yarn just to try it out. This fleece had a lot of vegetal material; I hope they’ll be able to do a better job getting it out with a commercial picking and carding process than I did. Picking out bits of stuff considerably slowed down the spinning, so I only got a little done, but enough to see that I really liked the result. Luckily whatever else it picks up by being photographed amid the debris of yesterday's cut grass will simply shake off - I'm not going for more gunk in the wool! I’d almost like a little gold or yellow in there, but I’m restraining myself.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

It happened! The sweater got finished, with about half an hour to spare. That time got used making a gluten-free Kentucky Derby torte. (And yes, it seems to have been enjoyed – I saw the youngest guest wearing a big smile and a lot of chocolate!) The yarn plus pattern had a LOT of give, so it turned out more like a shawl with sleeves and buttons. Bill took a photo of me with his (and my) favorite lily, right before I left to go to the garden party…
Which turned out to be indoors, because every time our hostess thought of setting the tables outside, the thunder started up again. It’s been a rather boisterous summer for thunderstorms – no sooner do I turn on the computer to look at email than it begins booming again and wisdom suggests shutting everything down and disconnecting the modem.
There is something truly, truly lovely about a garden party, and something especially lovely about this one. Simple sandwiches elegantly presented, well-dressed ladies, including Mary, sister of the hostess, who wore an extremely soignee dress she’d sewn herself from a vintage pattern (I’m guessing 1950s) though the fabric was a hot pink background with lime-green roses outlined in black. She carried it off perfectly, and claimed it was easy to sew. For her, of course.
Everyone wore hats; we sipped Earl Grey tea out of dainty china cups, and the flowers on each table were magnificent. It was definitely the party of the month, well worth finishing the sweater for.
Meanwhile, inspired by the summer 2009 Cloth Paper Scissors studio issue, I’m taking a hard look at my own studio and starting to go through things with a critical eye. It’s an interesting issue – not just the magazine, which is inspirational, but also the question of workspaces. Do they inspire? Are they easy to use and clean up? Do they mire us in the worst sort of creative bog? I think it’s time to take a closer look at this space and see what’s necessary – or not.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Realizing yesterday I had only three days til the garden party, the knitting continues. The back and one front are now done, the second front is in progress. Now it’s just today and Monday… But I paused to try a gauge swatch for the mohair, deciding it will have to be some sort of cardigan; and to finish a crazy-quilt tatted pincushion, started a few weeks ago. This is the first prototype of a class I’m teaching more than a year from now – I had to finish it and photograph it to give the organizers an idea of what I meant. Not entirely sure it’s glitzy enough – I meant it to have a tatted charm, and I think some of the tatting on it might be too big. Of course there will be more crazy-tatted experiments unfolding eventually … but meanwhile, back to the knitting.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Ask and ye shall receive… in this instance, an invitation to a garden party, even though I didn’t ask very loudly! Also, I don’t think the person who invited me read that entry – it just happened! So yesterday I spent several hours finishing the sweater back.

Now all I need is two fronts, a marathon of sewing things together and darning in the little ends, two sleeve bands, two front bands and the shawl collar. I’m afraid real work is going to get in the way of a speedy finish, but I’ve got a long book on tape to contribute to some slow-and-steady progress. The garden party is next Tuesday afternoon. I’ve been told to wear a vintage-looking dress and a flowered hat; white gloves will be provided. The sweater (if finished) would be perfect. I wonder whether I could cultivate an attitude of languid, to fit the mood of the occasion. I suspect in order to finish this sweater though, that could be counterproductive.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Inspired – mildly – by the New York State Fair competition booklet, which really should have many more tatting categories to reflect our huge enthusiasm for tatting! – I decided to finish a mohair-spinning project started when? Last summer, maybe. The goal was to spin enough for a sweater. Some of the spun mohair was markedly differed from other skeins – the ones I spun while Bill was in the hospital look neglected next to the others. But here’s the batch dyed and waiting – for a previous sweater in the queue to get more finished. Said previous sweater is a short-sleeved, slightly fitted cardigan I plan to wear to a summer wedding (if the weather justifies the need for a sweater) otherwise for the sort of garden-party events I hope to host or get invited to that never seem to happen. Anyway, I can dream!
Finishing the spinning and dyeing is part of the way there. I suppose I could always enter the skein competition – but I hope to have a sweater to show instead. There’s 21 ounces of the good stuff – and about 4 ounces of the too-loosely-plied handspun I’ll have to find another use for.
Am I getting de-railed by other projects? I was quilting for a while, trying to use up some part of my stash, and sewing like mad but not apparently getting very far along. And for the past week I’ve been doing something a bit different, about which my patience or attention is close to the end. And of course, there’s also work – which for me is a potpourri of choices and subjects. After three articles on the subject – the third currently in the works – I’ll soon be halfway to being an expert on foreclosures in the Finger Lakes (NY) area. A few nights ago I gave a wine talk on “How to Taste Like a Highbrow” for a library "Women In Wine benefit." I was astonished at the amount of research and re-writing, not to mention rehearsal, I needed before the big event. And fortunately, I had a pleasant, kind audience who said they really liked the talk. Came home and Bill said it had gone magnificently. That’s one worry off my mind for the moment! And a very different talk – one about tatting – to prepare and give next month that should hopefully provoke a lot less anxiety.

But first, there was a very big hat project. In the past eight days, I’ve made 47 little toppers for Seneca Santa. Admittedly, the bulk of most of them were done on the knitting machine, but they had to also be hand-finished, sewn up and in many cases, matched with the gorgeous mittens made by my friend June, who prefers knitting mittens to hats and seems to produce them almost magically. Last Sunday we sorted yarn, hats and mittens. We gave each other a pink challenge (notice a pink theme going on here?) and split up a pound of pink yarn. I got six hats out of it, I know June will probably not get 6 pairs of mittens, but after matching them with some of her other mittens, there are four hats waiting. There’s a gold hat bottom right in the photo – June had one of those mittens knitted before we finished sorting and matching last Sunday. There’s also a pale yellow one matched with a pair of June’s yellow mittens, unseen at the bottom of the pile. I started crocheting multiple strands of vaguely yellow yarn into a hat, then June said the started project looked like a potholder, so I pulled it out and re-did it by knitting it on size 15 needles. Now it’s airy and stretchy.
(Seneca Santa is an area charity providing Christmas gifts and warm winter stuff to needy area children. Last year we saw 269 hat and mitten sets come through the studio; but one of our most prolific mitten-makers died this past May after a long illness, so we think we’re in danger of having a lot fewer sets to give this coming year.)

Monday, May 25, 2009

And here’s the last of my catch-up entries, representing an amazing amount of time spent in late winter and early spring. The thread is size 30, hand-dyed, a small sampling of the dyeing I’ve been doing, though the colors are unfortunately washed-out by the flash – they’re much more intense than they appear. I dyed at least 200 skeins in various color variegations – mostly size 20 but also quite a bit of 30 and a dabbling in 10. I’ve done some tatting with these and I like the result – and when I took them with me to several tatting events people seemed happy with them.

They’re sitting on a layer of crocheted wash cloths / or dish cloths I’ve been making for the joint purpose of putting a dent into my cotton stash and trying to do some early preparation for Christmas. The dish-cloths are mindless crochet, and were perfect to take with me to Cleveland this winter – they were about all I had the wits to work on during Bill’s heart surgery and hospital stay. But because a few years ago I was gifted with a crocheted dish-cloth and found it quickly became a favorite to use in the kitchen, I thought these could be a gift appreciated by others, as well. I think it will be fun to put these together with a few other goodies – I’m not saying what in case my family is reading this!
Today was a work-day, but before I went in, I did some garden digging, made some soap (melt and pour, but it was fun anyway!) and planted two rows in the garden, doing some digging to prepare a bit more. This evening I planted the eggplant and peppers, transplanted some cosmos and marigolds, and hung up my shovel as having done enough for now.
At least outside. Inside, in the studio, I’m trying to usefully diminish another stash – by making quilt squares. Why is it that umpteen pieces of fabric may be put together with a lot of energy and effort – and the pile of fabric diminishes not at all?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Catching up – it seems like I’m always trying to catch up a little – comes in many forms. Today, under the impetus of two inspirations, I finally finished the sweater I began in February. I seem to have over-estimated my own size; also, as the sweater grew, I shrank a little. I wanted it to be oversized anyway, in part because it’s cotton and linen and could hypothetically shrink in any direction (though cotton tends to get shorter and wider with washing). I could also hypothetically shrink in any direction, though actually this isn’t happening quite as energetically as I’d like it to! The two goads to completion are related – tonight is the first in our library’s “Women in Wine” series, a fund-raiser for the library’s future expansion, and one I wrote about for the local newspaper; among those present at the event should be Heidi W., who started the same pattern sweater using different yarn – and I promised to model my finished one for her benefit.

You didn't think I'd take a photo with myself in it, did you?
Of course, I’ve also started another sweater already, hopefully one I’ll finish faster, because I intend to wear it this summer. The next one is white, made of a cloud-soft silk/bamboo combination I’ve got in the shop (in fact, it’s called “silk bamboo” and the back is already 1 ½ inches high. This will be a lace pattern with short sleeves and slightly larger needles – size 5 instead of size 3. Occasionally I read knitting blogs whose writers seem to finish a sweater every week or two. How do they do it? Don’t they have lives? Mine has me writing or completing five articles this week. Three down, two to go, not bad for Wednesday (they’re due Friday).

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Catching up

There are reasons – good ones – for the long gap in postings. Here are – in short – the two biggies. One was Bill’s open-heart surgery in early March, which entailed months of getting ready beforehand, with important preparations like making reservations, doctors’ appointments, that earlier-mentioned dental work (apparently necessary before open heart surgery, and 30 years of accumulated neglect added up to a bit of it) collecting the things we needed, making arrangements for the cat… then we made the long trip to Cleveland for tests and surgery. This was a harrowing adventure, as heart surgery can only be, with a fortunately happy ending in the form of a potentially successful outcome – a heart remodeled by the best heart surgeons in the universe to last for a longer, healthier life. There are no photos of that experience – a good thing, too!

Back home, my complex career as care-giver, chauffeur, appointment-scheduler, prescription-courier, gourmet chef, wood-carrier and fire-stoker eclipsed my more usual pursuits except for one important commitment requiring almost-as-compelling attention: organizing the Tatting Seminars in Hector. There are multiple organizers and inspired contributors to the event, including conference attendees who simply pitch in and make things happen – but being the person who actually lives in Hector adds that boots-on-the-ground excitement, as well as making it more practical for me to be the person who acquires some of the bulkier supplies, coordinates a few extra details, acts as the message-center, etc. Add to that the challenge of being a conference teacher, vendor, dyer and purveyor of hand-painted threads, and life becomes complicated.
We all survived the weekend, even Primrose the scaredy-cat who surprised everyone, including herself, by allowing a houseguest to approach and actually touch her. Can’t show the threads here – they came out beautifully, but now they’re gone. More threads will follow… eventually. Today was a time to partially catch up on bills and with Bill; tonight is dedicated to catching up on sleep, and tomorrow, the skeining begins again.

The photo shows some of the conference attendees – quite a few were hiding in the back row behind other people, a few stepped out of the photo entirely to capture whomever was left on their own cameras. I’m there too – at the far left in the back row, wearing green (behind Jeannie Z in red).
Now the fun is over – at least, for the moment – and it’s back to work.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Happy hands, happy feet

Christmas socks – finally finished! Waiting at Bill’s third dental appointment yesterday – this one with an oral surgeon – brought the socks to the home-stretch. Likewise, the two ounces of Shetland/Alpaca wool became fingerless mitts and a neck cosy. Also shown – three of five hats discovered unfinished in a brief clean-up binge.
Here’s the pattern for the neck cosy, knitted with a scant 21 grams of fine wool – because why waste even a small amount of fine handspun? I knitted it on size 9 needles to get the fully lacy effect.

Neck cosy: Cast on 20 stitches. ** Knit 2 rows (garter stitch). On third row, (K3, YO, K2 tog) THREE times, K5. Repeat from ** for length needed. If possible, try to end the scarf with a knit row. Unstretched, the knitting should be at least 20 inches long. I turned the bound-off edge before sewing to the cast-on edge, to make a sort of moebius twist. When finished, I had eight inches of spun yarn left over. I think this would be a quick, easy and slightly unusual winter present to make and give when one is needed. It stretches to fit over the head and sits nicely, like a cowl, around the neck.

And now the effort moves to two sweaters – one begun last year (and re-started yesterday); the other also begun last year, to keep a knitting student company – meaning we’d encourage each other. These could be long-running projects – they do NOT, either of them, use large needles - though at least one uses part of the stash. And of course, I’ve got a few littler projects to keep them company. More on those soon.
If the groundhog failed to see his shadow yesterday, does that mean spring is coming sooner?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Snowy Day

Yesterday it snowed all day, episodes of squalls, spitting snow, ice pellets and straight up-and-down white-outs, laying down layers of hazard and keeping us strictly indoors. This morning we have not yet gone out to survey the driveway and paths, which were less than ideal previously – we have not seen bare ground in more than a month! So it was definitely time for a mental health day and an opportunity to finish a few more things and, why not? Start a few others.
The doll in the middle of the photo taken on the chair was begun in 1983 for a crochet book I wrote and sold – that never got printed. There were a few unfinished projects from that book that still needed to be photographed before the book went to press, and as we know, that didn’t happen. This project was tossed into boxes, found at intervals and tossed into different boxes. She finally got finished yesterday. Like me, she’s become more substantial than she was 26 years ago, particularly in the lower half (she was constructed top down, extemporaneously) and she seems to have also changed eras – well, so have we all. To her left, elbowing in front of her, is a diminutive grape basket, a present in kit form for my birthday several years ago, from a talented basket-maker who doubtless thought this would be an easy project.
To say I was all thumbs trying to weave it is understatement, in fact, I could have used a few more thumbs. The instructions had cheerful directions like “weave 20 rounds with fo” I had barely a clue as to what THAT meant. By the time I got to “lashing the rim,” it didn’t seem like further punishment would help much. I may have invented several basket techniques a veteran of this craft would surely cringe at. It is the intended decoration that gives this basket its name – it isn’t supposed to be large enough to hold even a small bunch of pinot noir. But I think it would be a dandy place to hold spare shuttles as I liberate them from tatting projects as they get finished.
Last – though this took up most of the day – are the two brown balls of Shetland/alpaca wool spun while I listened to news programs. This is only two ounces, but spun finely, there’s a LOT of hours in it – at least half an hour and closer to 45 minutes in the plying alone. Then it was wound and re-wound to divide it neatly into two balls of roughly equal size. Are those knitting needles peeking around behind one of the balls. Well… um… yes. I did start another project. And true, I have not yet finished the third pair of socks. But I worked on them during Bill’s dental appointment on Monday, and at writer’s group Monday night, and Bill’s got another dental appointment – a long one – next Monday, so the end is in sight.

The quilt is for sweet Tanya, one of the youngest tatters in our group. She’s received it, so I can show it off now. It was started three years ago, one of those projects where you know the general intention of it, but don’t know quite why you began. When Tanya recently shared some good news, I knew it was for her, and finishing it became a pleasure. I’m not a great quilter, but every now and then something comes out really well, and this was fortunately one of those times.

Friday, January 23, 2009

January's Hat Harvest

The photo is a partial "list" of completed projects from the first part of January. There's a common thread - most use more than one yarn held together. The fuzzy yarns seem to be improved when they're joined to other, heavier, more substantial yarns - even other fuzzy ones; the little socks are a combination of a light knitting worsted and an acrylic sock yarn I bought on a whim at the dollar store. Using the pinky stuff with brown meant it would work for a boy.
I finished a few other things before and since taking the photo - not seen are a pair of socks destined to be mailed to a friend, another pair of fingerless mitts that hid out, camera-shy, while I planned to take the photo; another scarf, a lot of tatting, experiments and finished things that wound up in Tatting Times, a bit of clean-up here and there.
Many needlework blogs end up sounding self-congratulatory - "Look what I did! Look at me!" - but these few finished things are such a drop-in-the-bucket of the started, currently still-incomplete projects. I finally got the courage to count how many sock projects remain unfinished - I believe the number is currently four pairs, because two are now finished. (And that's just socks - I'm not yet ready to mention the multitude of tatting, crochet and other knitting projects "in progress" - but often not making any progress at all!) The past few days I've worked on knitting the pair of socks I began on Christmas - it's very fine yarn and still very, very far from finished, though I've been carrying them around with me. Knitted while I listened to the inauguration, even knitted at the restaurant when we went out to eat. And I've just barely turned the heel on the first sock. Some things move slowly.
These little socks were fun - I used size 5 needles, 28 stitches; it was more a matter of applying myself to the project of making sure they got done than taking time for them. And last Friday I had the satisfaction of seeing them on the little feet they were made for. You're looking at youngest grand Caleb, chocolate cake in one hand, determination to figure out my Louet hatbox spinning wheel uppermost in his mind. He alternately declared "Gramma, I WUV you!" and took, "I love you, Caleb!" as the starting gun for going back to have another try at stomping the wheel into submission. For the moment, the wheel won.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Keeping to the resolve... so far

Four finished projects are shown here - a fifth remains invisible. The two red scarves were knitted to use up yarns I discovered in my stash that needed using. More red projects are planned, but I needed a break so there's one on my needles now in shades of turquoise. Today my "twin" Wendy came for lunch, but I first dragged her to the stash and demanded she pick three yarns so I could knit her Christmas present. The result was the green scarf (there are also threads of purple and black in that) which looks smashing with her newly auburn hair. She left wearing it, layered with the black scarf she'd worn in. To the right, on the pinker of the red scarves is a Beaded Romanian Point Lace project designed by Canadian bead designer Brenda Franklin. Brenda taught this class at the Fringe Elements Fall tatting days last September, which always has a non-tatting class or two. Her instructions were superb, and I'd wanted to learn this form of lace, so I took her class when it coincided with a free period, and got the project partly finished. Brought it back and dropped it on my desk, where it sat tantalising me through the fall. I don't have a very large desk, so it seemed a good idea to begin the New Year by taking at least a few things off it. I finished this New Year's Day. It's very beaded and fairly heavy. I'm afraid if I hung it up as the ornament it's meant to be, the weight might pull it out of shape. For right now it will be packed away with the instructions for a few others of her designs, to be (maybe) tried at a later date. Maybe. Not shown in the photo is the disastrous felted bag project. I've made quite a few felted totes this year - at least eight others, but this one behaved like no other felted bag. It started out wide and long and felted narrower (as expected) but also longer than its pre-felted state. This one looks rather like a wooly pillowcase folded in half lengthwise. Only the handles came out as planned. I'm now considering how to finish it - turn it into TWO bags, perhaps? Line it and quietly give it away>