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…)