Saturday, December 24, 2011

The current project is huge – a quilt our tatting group began as a fund-raiser. 28 quilt squares were given out for embroidery at last April’s Tatting Conference – these are either strawberries or flowers, pre-printed on pink fabric, which seemed to be perfect for our upcoming heart-themed conference in April of 2012. Seemed straightforward – the embroidered squares were to be returned by late August. Which was when most of them did come back. The plan was to take the finished quilt top to the machine quilter before the end of September.

Fast forward to December when we had a total of 18 – count’em, and we did, many times, and couldn’t come up with more than 18 finished squares, plus a few around still in progress, including several not yet returned.

So Sally, one of our members, took two squares to work on, I took three more, and last week, two more partially finished squares were returned. I’ve been spending quite a lot of time listening to books on tape and embroidering. I just read on-line that the most skilled “factory’ embroiderers can only work 5 hours a day because of the intense concentration and the potential for hand injuries. I can understand why. After about 16 hours, I’ve got the two partially-completed squares finished now, three more still to go. Then all the squares need to be washed, ironed and trimmed to size before being laid out and assembled into a quilt. (Stay tuned – it will be absolutely gorgeous when it’s complete!)

In the meantime, still have one more end-of-the-year article to complete; and of course the final Christmas present, which I put the finishing stitches into today. These are Bill’s annual Christmas socks. They’re red, because as anyone who’s been in my knitting class can recite, tongue-in-cheek, RED IS WARMER. Or so Bill is convinced. These are particularly nice, made of washable merino and sock yarn, two strands held together. This was an intensive sock year, in the holiday season alone I made five pairs – luckily three of those pairs were for kids.

I’m taking off Christmas Day to do some different needlework.

Monday, December 19, 2011


It’s not the new year yet, but this seems like a perfect time to make resolutions anyway… Maybe because I’ve finished almost all of my holiday projects, including a few extras that got added in “just because.”
And having resolved, I’ve started… sort of, anyway. Resolution 1 – to use my stashes of stuff, [particularly the stuff I’ve been holding onto forever for no particular reason]. Okay, some of the things I held onto were because they seemed good and useful; some were given to me, some followed me home. I particularly like cotton, and I wouldn’t mind having more of it… No! No! Down girl! For now I’m going to work on having just a little less of it. So I began Saturday by crocheting dishcloths… I made a few. I also finished a few projects that can’t be shown yet – or ever, come to think of it, since they’re already wrapped up and put in the boxes of those who will open them on Christmas. But here’s a hat (sort of seen at the top of the photo) made from three interesting strands comprising mohair, nylon, metallic, wool, acrylic and, of all things, linen.

Here’s the plan – by this time next year, I will have used up, sold or given away at least four of those large Rubbermaid tubs filled with stuff. This does not include Seneca Santa yarn (I’ve got seven tubs of that) which is given away free for the asking, to those who will knit and crochet mitten and hat sets for Seneca Santa. (We’re starting to work towards 2012 now).

Looking for other things, I came across this yarn, which is available to (an) other home(s) – temporarily. It’s mostly Lion Brand “Jiffy” – a bulky acrylic yarn great for quick projects and kids’ stuff. There are 12 balls of “Midnight blues” – enough for a good-sized throw, I’d think; 6 of “taupe” (I see teddy bears, amigurumi and otherwise) 4 “Springfield” (green and purples), 2 of Duluth (that’s the pink/red/magenta blend) and 5 skeins of a much lighter weight lavender acrylic + 2 more of the same where the skeins were partly started.. anyone interested may have any of these for $1 a ball plus shipping – whole groups only. Anyone who wants the light lavender gets all 7 balls for the cost of 5. Want all of it? Then shipping is free… I will be advertising elsewhere, too. After December 30, I’ll be turning the yarn into that throw, those teddy bears, and other good stuff – unless someone stops me. I'll update as I go, with more stash-busting/ and as things disappear.

UPDATE: The 12 skeins of Midnight blues have a new home and a new purpose - the other yarn remains available. If anyone wants all of what's left, the shipping is still free for the remainder.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Santa’s workshop continues busy with all kinds of knitting and “stuff” I can’t show here. Our tatting group met here on Saturday and tatted snowflakes – mine was tatted in size 60, but I gave it away before photographing it. Possibly I’ll do a few more and next time I’ll take photos.

Then our spinning group met Sunday, and our sweet mother-to-be (Jen, are you reading this? You really ARE sweet!) who’s also a tatter was able to unwrap her gift. The hearts on the quilt were tatted, knitted and crocheted (including one butterfly) by Neil, Ruth, Dani, Karey, Ginny, Sally, and Nancy. I made the quilt and sewed the hearts on. Everyone please take note of the middle heart in the second row up from the bottom. It’s the most complicated one and was tatted by Sally who always says she can’t tat – and also had to adapt the pattern because the joins as written were difficult for a left-handed tatter.

We think even the baby was pleased – there even seemed to be a little applause (or at any rate, movement) from the as-yet unborn “T.” Then the spinning group went on to explore llama fiber, removing guard hairs as we spun some amazingly soft stuff. The llama fleece came from Jen, whose father-in-law raises them. I bought a llama blanket (whole fleece) I’ll start processing after the holidays, if I can wait that long.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The garden is done, but here’s the tribble harvest (so far). They were perfect Thanksgiving knitting. No one actually asked “what are you doing?” because I was obviously knitting something with a great sense of purpose, even if it was little. Each time I finished one, I started right in on another. I need them for giving to members of my exercise class (at least a dozen there) and to various other people for presents (at least a dozen more.) I brought them to work with me, I took them with me to a crafts fair, where I knit them standing up. They’re wonderfully addictive – like potato chips, you simply can’t stop with one!

And what are they good for? These double-sided, knitted powder-puff-sized objects can be used for washing faces or dishes (choose one or make several tribbles). the pattern is someone else’s brainchild and can be found here. There are still tribbles going on…and um...other things. (Don't ask me what, I've been wrapping all morning.)

Of COURSE I’ve been involved in other creative endeavors, most of which I can’t show yet - a monster amount of hats and mittens, some for craft shows, some for Seneca Santa- these all left home before I could photograph them. Also work, but that's another matter. Suffice it to say the tatting shuttles have been laid aside for the moment – but the knitting needles are smokin’!

Here’s a closeup - the yarn used was Bernat Handicrafter cotton in a color called "Psychedelic" and a link to the pattern
And now, to wrap these beauties ...

Sunday, November 6, 2011

This morning I picked up my friend June for breakfast. We drank tea, ate lots of pancakes, talked about all the important fibery things in life, and then after I wrote all the names on pieces of paper, folded them and put them in a box, June pulled two winners, first asking me whether the pieces were identical in size and fold. Of course, they were.

Then we did a quick fiber tour of the studio and the barn and came up with three bags of yarn June could take home, and one I’ve got to wash before she’ll touch it. The “gotta wash” pile is part of a larger stash I inherited from a neighborhood knitter with an old dog, non-opening windows, a smoker in the family and some other issues compounded with the birch pollen it acquired while it was being aired this spring. Most of the stash is in five large tubs in the barn, also in three double-bagged black plastic trash bags, with dryer sheets and mothballs, which didn’t improve it much. The freshly-washed yarn gets mailed to her when she returns to her winter home.

Robert asked about the lime marmalade. I started with 9 limes, a grapefruit and a lemon. Sliced it all very, very thin – 1/16 inch strips are ideal, but most of them were a shade thicker. Put it all in a 6 quart pot with about 2 cups of water and started to cook it. After about 15 minutes, I checked the recipe on the Sure-Jell light box – nothing like doing things in the right order. However, as luck would have it, I did begin with the 6 cups of prepared fruit (they suggested 5 ½) but because I was doing a Seville-style marmalade, I hadn’t done the fancy stuff about separating fruit and rind, peeling off the pith and boiling it separately and so forth. I just went ahead with the directions. As soon as the Sure-Jell entered the mix, it began jelling beautifully. I added the sugar, brought it back up to boil as directed, and it was done. The jars are mostly olive jars- one held jam, about 12 years ago; another once held maraschino cherries, which we couldn't quite bring ourselves to eat. I washed them in the dishwasher, then sterilized jars and tops in boiling water. They all sealed… though I had my doubts about one of them, so I suppose I’ll make the ultimate sacrifice and keep it. It’s very, very good.

Oh yes, the winners are Jennifer and Martha. Congratulations! I’ll be doing this again, by the way. Thank you all for reading and also for the nice things you-all said.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

As of today, the last issues of the November Tatting Times are in the mail. Every issue, I’ve got a favorite pattern, and this “Christmas cookies” design is the current fave. It uses the ‘wandering wheel’ technique and was simply a pleasure to tat. I’m thinking I’ll do it again in a variegated, just for the fun of it. It looks smaller than it actually is because it’s sitting on a large dinner plate – it’s actually a little more than 6” across.

The magazine went out in three increments – this is the batch that went out Friday.

And here’s what I was doing when I wasn’t tatting or knitting (or working) - the jam is on the top shelf, then heading downwards, tomatoes and peaches, more peaches, more tomatoes, plums and the last two jars of last year’s sauerkraut, then a full (unseen) shelf of sauerkraut beneath that. You also can’t see the six market baskets with more canned tomatoes, applesauce, Catawba grape jam (though it might remain as a sort of sauce)… and no one can see the lime marmalade I’m planning to make on Friday.

Back to tatting and Tatting Times – I’m starting a major winter de-stash. If you are a Tatting Times reader, add a comment below and you have one of two chances to win a batch of tatting goodies including (among the goodies) a skein of my hand dyed thread. Winner will be chosen at random November 6 in the early morning.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Nervous knitting is the thing to do when you can’t think of anything else you want to do, ort he knitting is happening when there’s other things going on, or any other time one wants to knit without paying close attention to what’s happening on the needles.

When the weather is iffy and the sort of in-between weather we have now, too chill in the morning to go out with uncovered hands but not-yet-ready-for-gloves weather. In the chill depths of winter, they’re great over magic gloves. As you can see, I made a dozen pairs by the time the photo was taken. I then made four more pairs; took them to the work… and brought only 10 pairs home. Or maybe I should say 10 ¾, because I was knitting in the quiet spaces and almost got another pair done.

Want to make your own? You’ll need a quartet of double pointed knitting needles, sizes 9 to 10 ½, depending on whether the thread used is super bulky, really bulky or simply sort-of chunky. Actually, I pay less and less attention to the size of knitting needles if they’re sort of in range. Using the same considerations, you’d begin by casting on 24-30 stitches on three needles, knit around in a K1, P1 rib for about 20-26 rounds, then bind off 7 stitches, immediately casting on 9 more. That’s the thumb opening, and you’ll knit the first and last cast-on stitch with the first and last stitch of the original group on the needle. Continue knitting around for 8 more rows, bind off and sew in all ends. Make another exactly like the first.

Actually, I’m not only knitting right now, I’m also tatting the final designs for the November issue of Tatting Times… but tatting does not come to work with me on a busy day!

And really, you don't want to know all the other things I did in September and the first part of October - it would just make you tired! But, okay, here's a little of what I did since I last posted - attended two conferences, one teaching tatting, one learning more about writing. Bought a lot of yarn, some for the shop, a slightly embarrassing amount for me. (But hey, a lot of it is turning into fingerless gloves!) Sang with the band, Mayhem, at various religious services... and rehearsed. Wrote a batch of articles. Picked apples and made applesauce and bought cabbage and made sauerkraut (not yet finished fermenting). And, oh yes, work - welcome extra work because it's the busy harvest season, which is followed by a long winter of less employment.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Friend Julia gave me this gorgeous and useful creation, initiating me into the Sisterhood of the Basket. Acceptance of this beautiful basket also heavily implies (according to Julia) a dedication to Finishing Projects. I’m all over that. In fact, I was already dedicating this pre-fall time to heavy-duty finishing of all kinds of things.

Installment # 1 – three pairs of socks. The center pair is one I started some time ago and decided to finish differently, thinking I had only the single ball of sock yarn. Then, when I was looking for another small bit of yarn to finish the dark socks on the left – made from handspun yarn, by the way – I discovered the primary-colored socks. The knitting required to finish them clued me in on why the yarn hadn’t sold – by the time I finished knitting them, I couldn’t stand the cutesy brightness. “But they’re so YOU!” someone said – mercifully, I’ve forgotten who uttered this. So yesterday I dyed them green – a little too enthusiastically – meaning I used way too much dye for a project that small. Which meant I rinsed them about 40 times, then put them through the wash.

So here they are now. Please note the woodpile posing in the distance behind the socks. I was pretty quiet for a few weeks because I was stacking it – it started out about the size of a small schoolbus and ended up also about the size of a small schoolbus – only slightly more organized now. Not shown is the newly weeded garden – the removed weeds completely fill the compost pile. Nor do you see the results of days of tomato canning and pickle –making. You didn’t think I was sitting on my hands, did you?

Monday, August 29, 2011

book publication!

Here it is, for the culmination of my summer. I worked on it a bit more in the past few months in preparation for publication. There's always a little more tinkering and fine-tuning. “Voices Like the Sound of Water” was officially released last Saturday. It’s my first collection of poems.

I read from the book on Monday night at the Harvest CafĂ© in Montour Falls, and if you were there, thank you! There were too many people present to hug and thank you all individually, but it’s a gift to be heard, and I appreciated all the people who turned out to listen (and buy books).

In answer to some of the questions people asked later… Even though poems are short, the collection took about 15 years to write and assemble. They take a lot of editing, rewriting, sometimes re-thinking. There’s humor in them because life is funny, even the serious parts. At least, sometimes. No, I didn’t pay to have them published, nor did I print them myself. The publisher did the design, then invited me to select the cover and end-paper color.

Will there be another poetry book sometime? I hope so. No immediate plans for one, though.

And, most important, Bill does sing off-key, but not in the shower; and he stays – that poem wasn’t about him. Those who know us well, know this has been a pretty difficult summer for Bill, health-wise - so whether he sings or not, I'm extremely grateful he's part of the shower landscape!

Second in importance – the book is available from me or from the publisher. Find information and a sample poem here.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Here is what a lot of love looks like - 33 hat and mitten sets ready to go to needy children. This summer’s weather, so far, has been a great reminder of winter. 30 of the mittens were made by June; hats were made by Judith, Calina, me – and some came from the estate of marathon knitter-and-hat-maker Dianne (two ns) G. Tomorrow these go into Seneca Santa storage in Watkins Glen.
This is the time of year when everything slowly accelerates. Thanks to the weather and some of Bill’s health-problems like his new not-yet-fully-installed pacemaker, hospital trips and doctors’ visits took up time we needed for gardening, so the garden is a weed paradise without its full complement of veggies. What’s in is getting munched on – by something that’s enjoying it instead of us. Today’s supposed to be a nice day but once again, it looks like rain. But that’s okay, we’ve got one last doctor’s visit – the third this week – to amuse us. Maybe we should call these our new hobby?
Doctors’ visits are good for the production of Seneca Santa hats. I can do one per office visit, two per “short” medical test. My stock of hats, to match a boatload of beautiful mittens sent by June, is rising. Fortunately – for Seneca Santa, at least – we’ve got more visits next week.
And wet weather is good for tatting. I’ve been working on the projects I’m teaching for the Fringe Element tatting group in September. The theme is My Favorite Things - being Canadian, they put a “u” into favorite . Because my own favorite things include books and paperweights, I decided to revise the marble cosy paperweight from my book ‘Baubles, Bangles and Beads” to accommodate a larger marble. And then I went for one even larger. I’ve found a vendor who sells even larger ones, so I plan to look for more next week. I’m supposed to have a poetry book coming out this August - wow! A book I’m not publishing and printing myself! – and I’ve got to meet with the editor, who lives vaguely near the marble guy. Between doctors’ visits, of course.

The other thing I’m teaching is an ornament for a book cover – in this case, a creative journal whose interfacing pages can be personalized with writing and sewn in samples. The idea came to me in a brainstorm. I couldn't take a good picture, because between the sheen of the velvet on the cover and the sparkle of the beads, my poor attempt was more shine than book.
By the way, the folks who organize the Fringe element event are a wonderful group who manage to be well organized and informal at the same time. This event often has room for a few more, too. Find out more at
And because I couldn’t garden, I created a tatted one. This is one of the projects I’m teaching at the IOLI conference in early August. I’ve been sketching and tatting these for a full year; here is the final version.

Friday, June 10, 2011

I haven’t been sitting on my hands, honestly. I’ve been tatting quite a lot, and I’ll have something to show for it soon. I’ve also been doing a whole lot of work of various sorts. A bunch of writing, and a new venture – acting in a melodrama. It came about that at the end of May, I was asked to write an article about the Old Havana Theatre. (The Schuyler County village currently known as Montour Falls was once known as Havana) This brave new enterprise brings another dimension of fun and culture to the area, and I was so taken with the spirit of things that, interview concluded, I blurted out that I’d be happy to help this venture get off the ground, ushering, promoting, whatever… which is how I found myself singing and dancing onstage, playing the train whistle and spooning cool-whip into a pie tin for the obligatory pie-in-the-face conclusion to the entertainment. It was a wonderful distraction from Bill’s medical woes, and in these days of truly offensive political revelations, it’s been wonderful to know that at least someplace virtue triumphs and villains get what they deserve (tastefully)!

Then my friend Laurie came to visit… and we spent a bunch of time together between work and the other friends she also needed to see. On the hottest day of the year - so far - we sat and spun wool in the shop… because the downstairs atmosphere is pleasant and cool. Now I’ve got to figure out what to do with this lovely art yarn Laurie made. Wool is one of our connections; we met in the 1970s at a spinning guild, and over the years, the threads of connection have multiplied.

One thing we did together a very long time ago was to take a dyeing class together. For a while this was Laurie's livelihood; now it's part of mine. Wednesday I mixed up a batch of dye to "revise" some alpaca I'd been gifted with - I was trying for a dark blue-purple but came out with a grayish dusty-grape. I did get wool roving and silk yarn to achieve the wished-for color - it was only the alpaca that wouldn't cooperate!

This morning I found out that I’d gotten into a fiber fest I’d been wait-listed for (as a vendor); mostly because I was too distracted by other work and Bill’s stuff to get my application in on time. So I spent the first part of the day dyeing roving and silk – here’s what my clothesline looked like for a while. Fortunately it was a perfect drying day; so I got the rest of my stuff assembled and packed the car to its gills for a 5:30 am start tomorrow.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

I think I may have come up with something. Which is always so much better than coming DOWN with something, right? But I haven’t seen this anywhere before and I find it intriguing.

Finalizing bookmark designs for my IOLI classes in early August, I was finishing a bookmark in pearl tatting and that “what if” intuition kicked in. What if… I used two threads in the pearl tatting method to tat a Josephine chain? I started with one color… hmmm… I could already see it looked intriguing. So I tried two.

Pearl tatting is also sometimes called Maltese tatting. Maltese in cats means gray, so I’m not sure how this form of tatting got dubbed Maltese. Maybe someone will tell me. Particularly because the Maltese ring, while similar to a Maltese (pearl tatted) chain is also quite different. Here is a started bookmark in three colors. I’ll be playing with this design a while longer, but in three colors, you can really see what this chain looks like.

Or almost. What you can’t quite see is the texture head-on. I can’t quite see it either unless I take off my glasses and regard it cross-eyed. (Easy for me, probably more difficult for you. But you can FEEL it.) Using two threads to tat the Josephine, you end up with something that looks more like rick-rack – it’s flatter than the usual Josephine or spiral chain. Which definitely makes it nicer for a bookmark.
Here’s how I tatted it –
Using one thread, I made five of the second half of the stitch, and then a sort of roll(not a stitch but a passing the shuttle over the thread to set the spiral; drop that first thread, pick up the second and repeat.

Try it and let me know what you think?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

April was a totally wonderful month – but looking back, it seems to have gone by in a total blur. After a brief recovery from our Finger Lakes Tatting Seminars I was off to Spokane for the Shuttlebirds.

As always, it was totally wonderful! I’m always impressed when a large group of people work together like a beautifully choreographed dance, everyone moving quickly without bumping into anyone else and getting a lot done in a brief amount of time. Because I had the good fortune to be staying with Lillian D., who was this year’s food captain, I know how much pre-Tat Days work went into making the food look effortless, but there was also lots more to do in the kitchen once people started to arrive and it all happened smoothly. Patti Duff is the presiding genius behind this conference, and she manages to do it all, including answering a zillion different questions, without once losing her cool. Here's a photo of one of the projects I taught - tatted mittens. (They'll be in the November Tatting Times.)

Then I had a couple of weeks before the next big thing... and one of the things that happened was having the chance to get one of my favorite knitters started on spinning. Like vampires, spinners (and tatters) always want to get others bit by the same fiber obsessions. Most of the identifying features have been cropped out to protect the innocent... but look! She's very definitely spinning! This picture was taken weeks ago, by now she's probably got everything spun.

I’d been asked to teach at the end of April for the Blue Ridge Mountain lacemakers and tatters from the Keystone Lace Guild. I already knew a few of these ladies – world class tatters. I was also intrigued by the location – Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, a place I’ve always wanted to visit.

So, combining two interests, I spent a lot of time researching tatting at the time of America’s Civil War and it was fascinating. Most of us know that at the beginning of the 1860s, tatting had not progressed beyond the ring and the false chain (a bare thread over which button-hole stitches looking like double stitches were made with a sewing needle). By the end of the War, Madame Riego had introduced the true chain; the proliferation of home sewing machines had encouraged the manufacture of smoother threads - and tatting was off and running.
For this event I created a tatter’s adaptation of the “housewives” soldiers took off with them to war. A real one looks like this

It gave me food for thought.

The great day arrived and Bill and I, fortified with months of historical reading, packed the car and left for Gettysburg. Because my time was short, once we arrived we went to the Gettysburg National Cemetery, where we took an interpreted walk with a park ranger, listened to a gaggle of embarrassed teenagers recite the Gettysburg Address under a bust of Lincoln. There was a lot of side-poking, giggling, toe-scraping and other recognizable fidgets of teens under duress – but the speech was incredibly moving anyway.

We also went to the top of Little Round Top, a Union stronghold, and drove around to various memorials, including the “Bloody Angle” where charging Confederate troops were slaughtered as they tried unsuccessfully to breach Union lines. We met a lot of people in costume or uniform, well-prepared for at least five years of high-intensity re-enactment.

The following day, I went to Needle and Thread who hosted the group. This is a beautiful fabric store near Gettysburg, specializing in Civil War era reproduction fabrics. Actually, I’d gone the day before to shop a bit, because I knew I’d be tempted. And I was! And knowing that fiber stuff makes the best souvenirs, I gave into temptation. Darlene and Carl, the owners, were wonderfully welcoming, and their selection of goodies made me think about making one of those Civil War reproduction quilts. Just thinking…. Only thinking! Carl told Bill the wool they stock for re-enactors' uniforms is made by the same mill in England that wove the wool worn by the soldiers 150 years ago. Bill went back to the battlefields and walked around looking at things from the Confederate viewpoint while we had our class.

But I'm not sewing quilts for fun yet, because there’s a lot more tatting to do. I’ve got patterns to proof tat for the next set/s of classes, and a bit of everyday sewing to work on – for example, I’ve got a lot of fabric and a kind of hybrid quilt-batting/foam rubber stuff to turn into chair-pads. And knitting – I did finish two pairs of socks-in-progress, and a good thing too, it’s been cold enough to need them. In the photo, they're being inspected by our "invisible" cat.

Of course, I started another pair, I had a bout of dental work and I was expecting a lot of time in the waiting room. This incidentally didn’t happen, so the new socks are still on my needles. As is – on a different set of needles – a summer sweater I’ve begun for whatever summer festivities arise requiring an interesting shell. I’m not very far along with it, but then again, neither is the season. (Is it ever going to be summer this year? I have my doubts.)

So… back to the tatted housewives. I made bunches (and still have a few left) wide enough to hold tatting needles. This is mine – I’ve been learning needle tatting which is a challenge after the speed of shuttle-tatting. (The motif on the cover will be in the August Tatting Times.)

I take my hat off to those who shuttle tat, particularly those who shuttle tat beautifully and swiftly. Like Carolyn, who was in the class and already finished the project. Here’s Carolyn’s beautiful work. The thread was my HDT in the “Sunset” colorway. Way to go, Carolyn!

I had a wonderful time with the Blue Mountain lace group, multi-talented people who are terrific tatters as well.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Shhh…. Can you keep a secret? If you can, keep reading, and you’ll find a heartful shawl down a bit in this entry. First – be kind to me – I gave birth this past week. The newest book, “Wandering Wheels,” came back from the printers and was introduced at the Finger Lakes Tatting Group’s Tatting Seminars in Lodi, New York. Handy Hands has it now, as do I and I’ll have the booklet with me in Spokane next week.
I’m excited about the design possibilities in continuous Catherine Wheels in tatting and I can’t wait to see what other folks do with it!

I taught two classes at this year's Finger Lakes Tatting Group conference in Lodi this past weekend – the Rose Garden Pincushion, which uses floating chains, and the Pick o’the Bunch grapes class using the wandering wheels technique. If you weren’t there, it’s hard to explain how wonderful the weekend is – even for its organizers! There’s a lot of learning and sharing going on, a great chance to catch up with friends and make new ones, amazing food, eye-candy every direction you look, treats of all descriptions. Once again, Bunny Baker surpassed herself in the culinary arts department… and Bunny herself is such a sweetie that people tend to naturally gravitate toward the kitchen. We had a talented wood-turner who made our commemorative shuttles – she calls herself the Naked Woodworker but she does, actually, wear clothes. I wish I’d taken photos, but luckily, I didn’t have to – Sheryl Coleman did, and describes the event beautifully in her own blog As for me, after I came home from taking Nina to the airport… I went to sleep. Until yesterday, I fell asleep at any time I wasn’t actually in motion.

Here’s the secret part. I’m whispering.
Today, feeling slightly more human, I finished sewing tatted heart motifs on a shawl I’d proposed for Kay Foster, sister-in-law of Barbara Foster of Handy Hands. There were 39 or so motifs, from many different states and I think four different countries, many of them with millions of picots. The hearts, I mean, not the countries. Believing as I do in sewing down every picot, that was more hand-sewing than I’d budgeted time for before the conference. (Doesn’t that sound amazingly professional? Like I actually budget my time? Yeah, right.) But today was the day to sit down and finish sewing-on the latest arrivals. I hung the shawl out in the drizzle to freshen it; tomorrow I’ll put it in the dryer on low to fluff it out and hopefully get off some of the surface fuzzies… and then off it goes. That’s why it’s a secret… Kay doesn’t know yet. Many, many thanks to all those who contributed one or more hearts!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Unveiled at last – the cover tattings from my new booklet, “Wandering Wheels.” The grapes and the flower cart are two examples of what can be done with “floating” or joined Catherine wheels – everything tatted from a single color was made with one continuous thread – no cut and ties until I was done with that color. The idea arose after a tatter came to my house and demanded that I design a bunch of grapes for her. (Marcia, I love you hugs and hugs worth!) This led me to experiment with ideas – tatting each grape separately, which Marcia did before I came up with this method, seemed like too much work – as she herself will tell you. When I came up with this method, I knew it was something I’d never seen before, which felt truly exciting.

I really like the flower cart and I’m thinking of tatting it again to put on a t-shirt. The HDT (mine – colorway is called “Oil Slick”) worked well for the flowers and doesn’t truly look like oil at all. This has just been so much fun! Can you tell I’m really jazzed about it? The booklet comes back from the printer next week (some copies are already sold) when I take in the pattern book for the next Tatting in the Finger Lakes conference, which is just two weeks away. I’ll have it there and in Spokane.

After the masters went to the printer, I knitted 7 pairs of Seneca Santa mittens, which the Thursday knitting circle helped sew together. (Thank you!) And worked on cleaning up the black hole… I mean, the studio. Not done yet, of course, but progress has been made.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

We’re snowed in again – which frankly, I love (or would if it didn’t feel like the flu has returned for an encore). Nevertheless, I’ve been having a blast. Today I wrote an article that I feel politically much in tune with. As a journalist, my job is to present information without expressing the merest shred of personal opinion, but when I get a chance to write about something I really believe in – which fortunately happens often – I feel particularly optimistic about life in general.

My friend June is in town, and brought some Seneca Santa mittens with her. We had an opportunity for a nice long visit and sort through the yarn bins. I’ve been doing a few hats now and then when I have time. The yellow ones, incidentally, were mostly made by my friend Jennifer, who knitted a long, tubular scarf that had no home. She gave it to me, and because I had some of the same yarn, through the magic of crochet turned the scarf into 8 hats on a different wintry morning. They matched well with many of June’s mittens.

We drank a lot of tea, she made a pair of mittens while I crocheted 7 more hats – hats go so much more quickly than mittens. And voila! We now have 14 finished sets. June, who every year makes dozens of mittens, stubbornly refuses to dedicate her entire life to this project – she really does have a life completely apart from knitting. I think I’m going to have to spend some time in the next weeks making some myself. I’m hoping that if I can do some on the knitting machine, maybe the Thursday knitting circle could sew them up. The idea is always to get the first batch of mittens out the door and into summer storage before the tatting conference and - yikes! It’s only four weeks away. I’d like to have a bit more than 14 sets to send off. Each year I pledge myself to make or facilitate at least 100 sets, so any way you look at it, I’m a bit behind.

Next on the agenda – look at the sage wool shawl whose ends you see behind the mittens. It began its life as a beautiful piece of wool whose remnant was given to me by a talented needlewoman who was purging her fabric stash. What it needs is an array of tatted hearts so it may be sent to a tatter who was the unlucky passenger in a car hit by another car and is now recovering from this serious accident. I hope to send this, too, on its way before our April tatting conference.

I’m also at work on a new tatting book, hinted at in the last Tatting Times. I’m really excited about these new patterns – I’ll show a few of the results when I’ve got more of them tatted… and after I tat a few hearts.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Working like mad on too many projects to admit to… (with fever breaks in bed with the cat and a lot of hot tea). I’ve been cleaning my studio, an ongoing project that will probably take the rest of my life. I found a humiliating number of knitted socks in progress, but in several cases, I was embarrassingly convinced that I only found half the project, so I did the only logical thing – set them aside and began another pair of knitted socks. The new pair has a chance of getting finished…. Sometime in March, I’m absolutely sure.
For several weeks I’ve been tatting a lace edging for a tablecloth. I was astounded to learn it would be 13 feet of edging before I was done. Now I’m done. Ginny W has the tablecloth; her mom did the embroidery and we’re all adding tatted flowers to the ornamentation. This is going to be auctioned – and it’s already a beauty (even without the edging). The auction proceeds will help support our annual convention. Somewhere along the line, I realized I could keep things from tangling by winding the edging around a piece of cardboard, measuring here and there for the corners. The edging is the simple one everyone learns at the beginning of tatting:
R: 5-5-5-5 CH: 5-5 Repeat until you’re crazy. For some of us this doesn’t take long.

This is what 13 feet of edging looks like. Ginny’s so smart, I’ll let her do the final joins after she inveigles her mother into sewing it on.
The homeless quilts are now in Kansas City, to be given away during the homelessness marathon, February 23-24 (public radio stations and several public TV stations as well – if you can get Pacifica, tune in between 6 pm central time and 8 am the following morning). Sixteen quilts, in case anyone wants to know, filled 4 large black plastic garbage bags. I was told they’d cushion a lot of the broadcast equipment on the ride out.
I made 14 of those quilts, and would you believe the cat came downstairs in the middle of the night and tossed fabric scraps hither and yon? Clearly the only thing to do was to work some of them into quilt squares, which takes more time than I would have believed possible. I need those elves when the shoemaker is finished with them – at least to keep the cat in line. A week’s worth of sewing while I’ve had the flu resulted in enough squares for one quilt - but a mountain more was discovered - I'm sure the cat did it just to frustrate me. I couldn't have quite THAT much around, could I?

Here’s the culprit, resting from her labors. On Bill, who has a slight fever. We’ve been flu-ish. When I went to the clinic Friday, the nurse said brightly, “Oh! Real flu! We haven’t seen much flu this year.” I think what she meant was, “Everyone else was smart enough to get flu shots, you suffering from stupidity as well as bronchitis?” But being a trained health professional, she was much too kind to say so.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

I've now completed 10 homeless quilts - the three most recent are festooned artlessly around the messy studio in front of a leaning tower of completed ones in my messy studio. I haven't been cleaning up, just cutting, sewing, tying - and then on to the next one. I figure I've got enough materials and enough energy to make maybe four more. In my "spare" time - this being a snowed-in day without other work - I also completed 8 Seneca Santa hats and worked on a totally pedestrian tatting project - tatting 13 yards of edging for a tablecloth. It may be pedestrian but it's also quite inspiring... that is, I'm very inspired to finish it and move on to something else, but alas, it is not the work of a moment!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Not knowing who was reading this in the lead-up to the holidays, I kept my head down, with four major sewing projects going, as well as some knitting. I'm not as enthused about sewing - though I've sure got to do a lot of it! - so I kept my nose to the grindstone, meaning to photograph all these projects when they were done. Then I got excited about wrapping them and getting them to their recipients – and then it was too late. Since nearly everyone now has their presents in hand, I can explain them, even if I can't show them. Take my word for it, they did come out rather nicely! They included potato-baking bags, made from cotton fabric and batting, for baking potatoes in the microwave; patchwork pot-holders with fairly complicated patterns, and for my sweetie, wool socks - red of course, because as everyone in our Thursday night knitting group could recite in chorus, red is WARMER.

Now, in January, things have moved on… a bit. We’ve weathered the holidays, a touch of flu, a snowy Roc Day. The lambs we began three spinning meetings ago (this is a Lion Brand KAL pattern) got finished. Mary’s is the pink one on the left, mine, using some roving I was presented with by a visitor from England on the right I changed the pattern to do the whole thing in the round and minimize sewing – a lot of parts were knitted-on instead. When I finished, I had used 13 knitting needles. Not quite sure how that happened. Also, because of the variegation, some beholders thought the lambie was really a piglet. Then we gave ourselves a winter challenge – spinning a set of wild batts we each made from various bits of fleece we all threw into the center of the room, divided, then carded. We each ended up with about 7 ounces in two colorways – one was a sort of green/blue/white blend, the other was an orange/brown set that spun up looking like a dog’s breakfast. More on those later.

I’ve undertaken some reorganization in the studio – but the “before” photo was so horrendous, I don’t dare show it. Can we take it as read that it was awful? The still-disorganized progress might be nothing to write home about, but it is a whole lot better! I produced a tatting booklet called “Baubles, Bangles and Beads,” – here’s a photo of some of the projects. Anyone who’s done design work can well imagine the amounts of time, thread, dropped beads, projects that got scrapped because they didn’t turn out and bad words this entailed. But I was really, really pleased with the results. One project that didn’t get in because I misplaced it three times led me to think I needed to design something different – and I liked that a whole lot better.

Came up with three projects for the Finger Lakes Tatting Seminars in April – Marcia will teach one of them (the carrots). And take a look at these grapes – I believe I may have invented a new technique for making Catherine Wheels with a continuous thread.

We’ve had a bunch of snow, so there’s been a lot of creative time. The current focus, between tatting and tatting, is making homeless quilts. (These would have looked a lot better if I'd photographed them from further away.) That is, the quilts are for homeless people, though since they’re not yet currently connected to the individuals who need them, I suppose the quilts are themselves homeless. I was gifted with a godsend – bags of gorgeous fabric from a hobby seamstress with elegant taste, which helped a lot. Thanks, Edna! Her stash even included a length of fleece I could use as a warm layer. That quilt is the only one that’s not a “quillow” – the rest are, because you know how personal your pillow is, and it seemed like a good thing to combine warmth with a pillow. So far, I’ve made 7, and my friend Jean J. has made one. I want to keep going on this project for at least another week, but I seem to be running out of quilt insides....