Wednesday, December 26, 2012

After Christmas...

Santa’s workshop is closed. I’ve finished socks for Bill (my last outstanding knitting project for the year). Those who’ve visited Graceful Arts Fiber Studio could all sing out in unison why Bill’s Christmas socks always have to be red – it’s because red is WARMER! (According to Bill, anyway.) I recently realized that when Bill and I first got together, washable wool wasn’t an easy-to-find option. But now, thankfully, it is so his Christmas socks fit better and do better in the wash. There’s another good reason they need to be red – the one time I made blue ones, they got left behind in a hospital stay. Bill promises this wouldn’t happen again, so maybe (shhh!) for Valentine’s Day another color might be used. A lot of those early socks need replacement.
Socks might be in the air, so to speak. Last week, Shelly, of the Thursday knitting group, finished her socks. Her feet are now ready for dancing.
Instead of dancing, I’ve got my nose to the grindstone on the upcoming doily book. Here are ones finished and blocked so far. It’s a terrible photo, partly because they’re tatted in size 80 thread, and partly because we’re in the midst of a late afternoon blizzard, so the light isn’t great. Three down, about nine to go. Ginny and Kathy are each working one - and right now I've got no articles due - so I think it will be possible to finish in time. Big Thank Yous, ladies! Went to the store and the library earlier and stocked up on milk for Bill and books on tape for me. I’ve cleared a rocker near the fire and – even more importantly – within headphone reach of the CD player. We’ve gotten in wood, parked the snow shovel outside the door and talked to the snowplow guy. We’ve got tea and chocolate, so we’re ready for productive and well-nourished hibernation, if necessary. I won't say bring on the snow, because I'd very much prefer spring, summer or fall - but since we can't seem to stop it, I'll try to enjoy it in my own way.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

I'm back!

Trying to catch up with a neglected blog is like trying to tell a long story. So here are a few photos of what I did this summer and fall.
A lot of gardening led to a great deal of canning. Full disclosure – Bill did much of the gardening - I helped and the result was tremendous. There were a few crop failures - the cucumbers came on so slowly we forgot about them, but the zucchini was apparently mis-labeled, because it all turned out to be yellow summer squash. Which is why we lost interest in it by August and forgot about it on purpose. But these were more compensated for by the tomatoes, which just never quit. For this we have to partly credit Bill’s trellis-work, an intricate Rube Goldberg-like device he builds each season out of a small mountain of saved string and recycled vineyard posts. And a little credit to me, too, for choosing a giant variety of paste tomato and starting a bunch of seeds in the house. Opalka tomatoes aren’t the tastiest on a sandwich, but they make great sauce. And do we have sauce! I had to buy another shelf system for the pantry, and it still left us with a large cardboard box in the kitchen, which holds another two dozen jars of sauce with peppers, eggplant, and garlic all also from our garden.
Working at my favorite theatre – the Old Havana Courthouse Theatre in Montour Falls. I took this photo backstage at our last production of “Wings of Fire.” On the left Elizabeth Hageman as Wendy Wingnut and Sarra Solomon as Poppy Rivets – the two played an all-girl aviation team. I had a very minor role as judge of the air contest and sheriff arresting the villain at the end of the show, but as they say, there are no minor parts, just minor actors. I’d judge myself a very minor actor but I had a great time anyway.
Sarra took this picture - you'll have to guess which one is me. The backstage area is about the size of a small bathroom (minus the plumbing) and when there were more than three people back there, it was definitely crowded. I was also box office manager and stage manager and I loved every minute of it.
Wood stacking – four cords’ worth. There was still about ¾ of a cord left that had to be re-stacked first; I managed to stack about a cord’s worth per day which allowed me to finish the job single-handedly in record time. Just me and my little bottle of ibuprofen.
Dyeing threads, because I’m totally in love with color
Kelly Dunn in Canada made this doily using up the last of my "Sunset on Seneca" colorway.
Teaching – these two projects were for the Fringe Element tatting group. And as always, they did a fabulous job and I had a wonderful time.
A little more traveling. I spent Thanksgiving week in Sweden visiting friends. Tatting and friends came together when I met a group of Swedish tatters at my friend Anita’s house in Stockholm. We had a wonderful afternoon of coffee and cake and sharing; I brought a new pattern and we tried it out. Now I’m tatting for next year’s teaching and a forthcoming doily book. Oh, and getting ready for the holidays.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Off to a wedding today. The bride and groom requested (most of) these colors; admittedly the orange was added to set off the others. Making this quilt was a labor of love. I actually made two quilts more or less at the same time, but I can’t post the other one yet – it’s not time for it to go to its new home.
This sweater took about 15 months to complete and happened amidst a lot of other things, with tatting taking the uppermost priority. I finally finished it this morning. It’s mostly cotton with a little nylon for shine and stability. It was fun to knit (which doesn’t explain why it took so long); and feels good finished and on my back. Despite its weight, it was a comfortable airy sweater for a hot, hot day, and I can’t quite bring myself to take it off yet! Luckily, it stopped raining just in time for the ceremony, and it held off pouring until we were back inside the synagogue. Earlier this week, feeling a surge in clean-up energy, I began to consider
what I might move out of the way, and decided to do the long-awaited spray painting of tins saved by fellow tatters for future Tatting Seminar gatherings. The ones that are metallic gray (car paint, as it turns out) are for the 2013 gathering; the little white ones are for 2014. About half the larger ones (40 of them!) are already labeled and packed; the rest await a lower-humidity day to be finished.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Swaps have started...

Some little trading cards are on their way to Australia. There are also cards on their way to Sweden and places in this country… I can’t stop making them, they’re just too much fun.
Here are a bunch of cards made by our group at our most recent meeting. Everyone had a very individual take on the cards – there’s even one with crochet (lower center) and one with bobbin lace (middle) – several were a collaborative effort. I was told emphatically by several friends that mine were very “over the top” – over-embellished, too decorated, maybe even too much – but I like them that way, though I had to promise on several I was working on to not add more… but I did add just a little more, where more seemed to be needed. Really. In the topmost photo, mine are the one with the tag (lower left, the crowded one in the center (but I really, really liked that one!) the purply one on the striped disk right below Dani’s red one, and the one in progress with the orange threads emerging from behind.
Here's a closer look at a few of them And of course I’m working on more, but I’m also working on Tatting Times…
And the wild haired garden maiden says…
"You’d better keep digging that garlic!" (there’s a lot more in the garden)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

More about Tatting Trading Cards – this is part 2

At our meeting last Saturday, the Finger Lakes Tatting Group – which this time was five of us – spent an afternoon working on our first trading cards. I had a head start and I’d already put about three hours into my first one. Ginny’s family had been using their plastic jugs for watering plants so she tried covering a CD; and since she had a few motifs already done, sewed one down (though she thought the sewing-down stitches were too visible. No one finished theirs in the three hours we played with them together. Even though this is a relatively small finished project, it takes longer than each of us thought it would. I don’t always center things well and my first attempt, a Celtic heart I designed, wasn’t quite in the center. I’d added an edging, but it still didn’t feel complete. so I added embroidery and beads, which helped a little. The above image is the ‘almost there’ visual. It still didn’t feel completely done to me. Here are Ginny’s works in progress. The large one on the left is the covered CD. Ginny didn’t have felt when she started this at home, so she covered the whole disk in fabric. She still plans to add an edging, because she needs to cover the join and the sewing between the two pieces of fabric. She said she didn’t like using the CD – it’s not flexible and it felt fragile. If it cracks or breaks, as CDs sometimes do, the piece is kaput. The recycled plastic is more flexible, less likely to crack. She also has an elaborate motif (center) and a rooster (one of Jane Eborall’s designs) she’s considering putting on other rounds. I’m sorry Dani’s started trading card photo is blurry, because Dani’s tatting comes out the way we all wish our tatting would look. This piece was, I think, in the nature of a swatch, to see how the gray Flora thread would compare in size to a variegated Lizbeth thread (both size 10) in the Pam Palmer elephant pattern. The verdict was they seem to tat into different gauges. But this swatch fitted perfectly on the 3 ½ inch round. Dani was going to sew it on and see what else was needed. This is an important point. These are not a matter of tatting or finding a motif, sticking it on felt and saying, “okay, good to go.” Unless, of course, it’s a truly spectacular motif that so exactly fits the space it needs no further embellishment. There are exceptions (like the work of a young beginning tatter who’s personally dear to you) but I think most of us would feel that trading a thoughtfully crafted work for a four-ring butterfly stuck to a piece of felt would be an unequal exchange. There’s a lot more that goes into these – or so we all felt when we worked on ours. It feels important to take time with each one, to truly create a small bit of art. I wanted to try to make a few more today, and I’d purchased some felt for precisely that purpose - enough to share with friends - but in cleaning my studio, pre-meeting, I managed to misplace the felt. The studio has the talent of swallowing up quite a lot of stuff (threads, yarns, with a particular appetite for projects-in-progress) and a dis-inclination to give anything back until I’ve moved on to a different idea. The studio obliged this time with a variety of unspun fibers, and I’d also carried down, for then-unknown reasons, a piece of bubble wrap just a little smaller than a standard piece of felt. So while I was listening to a book on tape (a murder mystery at the exciting, about-to-unmask-the-killer part) I layered wool on the bubble wrap, wet it and sprinkled on dish detergent, rolled and unrolled it and squeezed and rolled the whole thing on the table and made three small pieces of art felt. The one on the upper right has strands of light lavender silk streaked through it. So after another full afternoon in the studio, here are my first three almost-finished trading cards. The one shown earlier (now on the right) has a butterfly bead sewn on with antennae. I thought the metal bead helped balance the piece and added a bit more shine. To the left, a center motif with two smaller motifs in size 40 thread, with size 15 beads, sewn layered over the first piece. I found I liked embroidering around the join, so I used two colors of thread and some beads to bridge the border between the felt and the fabric. An experimental button motif is mounted on a circle cut from the handmade felt. I added extra beads, and used a buttonhole stitch (and more beads) to sew around the felt/fabric join. Buttons, beads, charms, rick-rack, old jewelry, shell, maybe even some flat sones – all are fair game for adding something interesting to the work. These are still not quite finished. As an astute commenter pointed out, trading cards need statistics with them or something. These will be finished when I’ve added a tag or business card with my name, email and address, maybe a name for the trading card, the origin of the motifs on it and/or how and why it was created can be added to the back of the tag. Our group decided to work on our own, then meet for a daylong trading card crafting session in July. We’re planning a swap with another group interested in the idea. I’m probably going to host a swap with interested parties in a couple of internet tatting groups. I’ve already seen that each one takes more than a few hours to do; also they’re not completely flat. But I’m enjoying looking at the results, and already contemplating the next ones.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Introducing Tatting Trading Cards - part 1

Artists have done this for a while – taken scraps of art the size of playing cards, either recycled paintings that didn’t work, collaged with other ideas; or small works of art created for the purpose. They’re exchanged with other artists, a way to own a little art made by a variety of artists. Then quilters, particularly crazy quilters, thought this could be a big idea; one sent me a lovely trading card/Christmas card I’ll probably keep forever. Now it’s time for tatters to step up to the plate – or in our case, the saucer. The thought arrived after a daylong struggle with one of those summer bugs that hit you all over and send you to bed for that unaccustomed afternoon nap. Woke up feeling a bit better and was suddenly struck with this BIG IDEA. A lot of what we do is circular, or lends itself to a circular format (like hearts, square motifs, little bits of things). We like to exchange things. We also need a place to put the cool things we get from other tatters. These will fit in a small box, or in those little photo albums made for 4” by 6” photos. Here’s how to get started. You’ll need a disk of plastic about 3 ½ inches in diameter. This could be a cut-down container lid or…. you can get four out of a milk carton. Then cut a slightly smaller circle out of felt. You’ll also need a 6” circle out of fabric. (don’t have a piece that big? you could sew several pieces together. ) A saucer made a good template. If the fabric came from a scrap heap, it might want to be ironed. Thread a sewing needle with ordinary thread – if you can, match the sewing thread to the color of felt you’ll use to top the disk - cut the thread and tie a knot at one end. Sew a running stitch about 1/8” from the edge of the fabric circle and draw it closed around a plastic disk. Secure the stitching with a few buttonhole knots but DO NOT CUT THE THREAD. Add the felt circle to the top (you may need to trim the felt into a better circle or make it slightly smaller than it already is) covering the exposed plastic, and continue around a second time, this time sewing the felt atop the disk. You can see a finished blank to the left. You now have a “canvas” to turn some of your neat tatted scraps into art. More on this later.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Wonderful tatting seminars and lace days – three in a row! Those who were there know that Hector was fabulous. All the glitches and hitches happened BEFORE the event and got dealt with; for all of us attending, everything just got better and better. You can see pictures at Does it look busy and concentrated and smiley? Yup. Not seen are the rapt expressions on our faces as we got into the various casseroles and shepherd’s pies of our Saturday night dinner. While you can’t taste them through a blog, know they were amazing! Maybe next time we should have some photos of the food, too? Then on to Spokane for the Shuttlebirds Tatting Days which were, as always, terrific. I love the time there but dread the 3-flight red-eye home… which this time was fine until we were about to land in Ithaca, then pulled out of our descent into a climb. It was overcast and the radar was out. But since I’m writing this, I obviously got home safely, only an hour later than planned. May 5 was the Amherst Museum Lace Guild’s day, I wasn’t teaching, just vending and enjoying. Lots of great people, a wonderful lecture by a costumer so dedicated (can’t remember her name, though) she bought the house next door to her home just for storing and working on conserving clothing. And what clothing! Garments from three centuries, maintained in beautiful condition and well understood and explained by this non-lacemaking textile person.
Needing a slight break from tatting, I began crocheting, first to make some hot-pads I’d seen and couldn’t figure out until I found the pattern online at The original two were made as a house-present for the person I stayed with; problem is once I got started, I found they were addictive. Like a good vampire, I inoculated the Wednesday night knitters with the same pattern, which I now know by heart, because it’s totally straightforward. Then I made baby afghans, because two people of my acquaintance had/ or will have little girls. One for T.;
the other for J., a young father my daughter used to babysit. J. doesn’t have his yet, but I don’t think he’ll read this blog.
And finally, planning for the Fringe Element tatters in September, I started playing with prototypes for new amulet bag patterns. This is a tease for their wonderful event (see in September; the actual pattern will be somewhat different. The event is in Canada, west of Toronto in Cambridge, Ontario. I’ll be bringing out a book of amulet bag patterns late in 2012 or early 2013, and other versions of these will be in them.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Getting ready for the Tatting Seminars in the Finger Lakes – just around the corner, April 13-15 - means that by this point in the process, life is all tatting, all the time – even when I’m preparing for Passover or cleaning the house or doing my everyday article-writing for the newspapers. Three of the stories due this week or next are school-related, so there’s a bit of a push on getting ready for those.
But I did finish this knitted “Queen of Hearts” Shawl for one of the silent auctions at the seminars. We decided our silent auctions will benefit the stroke and cardiovascular rehab unit at Strong Hospital in Rochester (NY) so knitting this shawl was a labor of love. I decided I want to do another one, to keep. Possibly as a knit-along this summer. The tweedy yarn I used was essentially self-blocking, so after I washed it, I left it in the sunshine and rain for a few days and now it’s totally wonderful.

But just so the joy was not unmixed, just when I was feeling everything was pretty much on its way to completion, came an email from someone who’d asked to teach at the conference announcing she’d decided, for unspecified reasons, to become an ex-teacher. So, 10 days beforehand, in the time I’d left for inessentials like cleaning, writing six articles for various papers, shopping and cooking for a 10-person seder and for Easter AND for my part of the cooking for this conference, packing for another conference, creating a class for kids, dyeing yarns and threads for the shop and – okay, you get the idea. Instead of taking a deep breath and getting into that good stuff, I had to come up with a few more patterns and another class. After a sleepless night, I came up with a Celtic heart. This is the prototype, still needs a little tweaking, but I’m rather pleased with it.

The grey image at the top is a photocopy of the design, the yellow is the real one, done in size 5 cotton. This cotton will be dyed and become part of the needle-tatting package in its new incarnation.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Here’s one of my until-now secret projects – I was knitting a sweater (pattern is from an Interweave Knits publication) for a young man. I didn't like this pattern and it reminded me why I often don't use them - if I'd followed it exactly, the sleeves would have ended before the raglan shaping on the fronts and back; also, if I'd knitted instead of crocheted the collar and front bands they would have been three separate pieces with messy finishing.
Also, based on the gauge I was actually managing to follow, I thought it was for a younger male than it turned out to fit. It was intended as a maybe 6-month sweater for a baby who’s now a few months old – I knew he would be a handsome, strapping kid, but not having held a baby in many years, I guess I over-estimated how large he’d be in another four months.
Instead it fits his 3-year-old brother. And I have to say it looks really nice on him, though if he keeps growing as quickly as he’s done so far… he’ll be passing it on to his younger sib only slightly broken in!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Having made the decision to do more work from home this summer, I’ve been continuing to clean up, exploring corners of the house and studio that have not been fully looked-into for too long.

I’ve now got 30 sets of Seneca Santa hats and mittens ready to send off. I’ll see how many I have by next Thursday and pack up the rest. Still working on them – got about 28 pairs of mittens from my friend June; when she makes mittens, I make hats to match. We’ve come up with some remarkably perfect pairings despite working on things separately! Above is a selection of a bunch I finished last week...

Also found this tatted necklace, which was until yesterday a project-in-progress. Finished it yesterday afternoon and wore it yesterday evening. Here’s the pattern – it’s tedious but simple! Use size 10 thread to thread on an assortment of beads from size 10 to E beads or a little larger. You’ll need a lot of beads – and I mean a LOT of them – 26 feet of beaded thread. I kept pushing beads down on the thread and winding thread across various pieces of furniture during the beading process spider-web style, a process that took most of the afternoon. (I’ve done four of them, so the memory of doing this is green.) There has to be at least 5 to 8 yards of unbeaded thread before and after the beads. One end of the unbeaded thread is wound on a shuttle. The other, longer part of the thread, which is also the part with all the beads, is wound on a giant thread holder. I use a piece of cardboard at least the size of a cereal box with a few slits cut into it, and wind the thread lengthwise around the cardboard. To tat, begin with a loop on a paperclip or safety pin, tat about ¼ inch of plain chain, then tat a Josephine chain: * move up 1, 2. 3. 4 or 5 beads, in an at-random order and tat the second half of a ds. Repeat from * until all beads are used up. Tat another ¼ inch plain chain, remove the paper clip or safety pin and join. Cut, tie and sew in ends. The necklace should fit over your head without the need for a clasp.

These items are looking for new homes - they’re for sale for less than their value in order to make room in the destashing process.

Hammett loom – the money for this loom and its accessories will go to the food pantry.

Love and Money loom – perfect for anyone with too much acrylic yarn who’d like to craft placemats, coasters, afghans, etc without crocheting or knitting. Contact me via email please ( if you’re interested in prices/ more information/purchase.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Here’s two views of our gorgeous quilt before it goes up for auction. Two views – one with Sally at the lower left and Neil at the upper right – both responsible for a bunch of quilt blocks; and we put everything together at Sally’s house; Neil and Sally are hidden in the second photo, but you can see Dani, Neil’s daughter, who collaborated on a bunch of quilt blocks as well. it is even more gorgeous in person - Sue Hodge did the quilting, for which she is justly famous. Really. Someone came into my shop today from quite a distance away, and says she only has Sue quilt her work! The live auction will happen at the Tatting Seminars in the Finger Lakes. We will accept advance bids. Incidentally, the bidding will start at $200.

Finishing has so many benefits – these socks, for instance were the results of teaching a sock-knitting class whose other results included two new, enthusiastic sock knitters. The green ones used the “Dani technique” (same Dani you see above) of starting at the ankle with a provisional cast on, knitting the foot, and then after the toes are closed, removing the provision cast on and knitting up the leg as long as one wants. In this instance, I ran out of steam before I ran out of yarn, but I love the result, because the cast off, with a chain stitch between every third or fourth bind off, makes the most comfortable and elastic cuff. Having finished those socks, I naturally began another pair, using yarn I didn’t know I had until I did inventory. I like the colors, but I’d sadly thought I’d sold the last ball.

Also finished a number of felted bag projects, including a tambourine case. Now I can travel to gigs in style. (I’ve always wanted to use the word “gigs” in a sentence relating to something I do. So now it can be told – I’ve realized I’m a good back-up singer and a “belter” rather than a soloist. If you want volume and someone on-pitch, I can do it. For beauty and sensitive expression, you probably want another singer.) (This is not a secret.)

Also finished another project I can’t show yet.

This afternoon, our spinning group – all two of us – experimented with spinning color change yarn, like Noro Kuryon; Jessica’s is a singles; mine (wound) was plied with llama yarn from our previous get-together.

And here are Jessica’s mitts, an adaptation of my pattern, spun from a mystery Canadian roving; we really liked that one.

Lastly, here’s another work in progress to share – I’m knitting a lace shawl for the silent auction at the upcoming Tatting Seminars in the Finger Lakes (weekend after Easter). Because our theme is hearts, this looked like the ideal thing to knit. The pattern is by the late Beverly Galeskas and available from Fiber Trends (or from me, I carry some of their patterns). There’s a lot more knitting to do before I’m done, but it has logical repeats and it’s a lot of fun.

Friday, February 17, 2012

A Goddess leaves us

Around the world today, those of us who tat and appreciate fine needle-arts – and each other – are pausing to remember Regina Brummett, also known as the “Tatting Goddess.” Whether she gave herself that name or it came from elsewhere, it was an accurate description of someone who tatted a great deal, accompanied by an immense curiosity for how things would work, how a pattern might be adapted, put to good use in a variety of needlework projects or gift-giving opportunities.

In her talented hands, a motif might become a bookmark, a bookmark an edging- and virtually anything could be improved with the addition of tatting. I greatly appreciated her support of my designs and I loved seeing her interpretations and the final outcome.

Gina came to our regional tatting conferences as a participant and as a teacher, always sharing the fun of the occasion with everyone around her. She was thoughtful, smart, generous with sharing, but never gossiped nor had an unkind word to say of anyone.

It can be a cliché to call someone a good person, and after all, who are we to make that sort of judgment? But it’s easy to see when there’s someone one can admire, whose company is treasured, and whose absence leaves a hole. It’s indisputably true there’s no one like her, and Gina will be very greatly missed.

Take a last look at Gina at
You’ll see a vibrant, interested-in-life, beautiful woman and understand why, for those of us who knew her, our lives are dimmed by her passing.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The winter has a harvest too - and here are some of the first fruits. It took a while – a lot longer than I expected – to get the two tatting books (Button Abecedarius and Bouquet of Bookmarks) in the shape I wanted them to be, off to the printer and then back. the sampler in the center between the books is the back cover of the Button book. For weeks there was a LOT of tatting going on – for those and for the February 2012 Tatting Times. None of it was the work of a moment. And with the exception of a special quilt, there wasn't much else going on. No housekeeping. As little cooking as possible. No work on taxes. No shop inventory. When someone came in to look at knitting yarn, I showed them tatting instead.

so... about Kathy’s quilt. Which is also, in its way, about tatting. Quilt squares, mostly from tatters, kept coming in from all over – England, Germany, across the U.S. One tatter wrote something like, “Every tatter is either already my friend or would be my friend if we met.” While only about half those contributing squares know Kathy (so far), they are all gorgeous and made with love. I was able to deliver the quilt to Kathy today, the first time I’ve seen her in about five weeks. Back then, she was in the hospital, not yet in re-hab. (And the evening after we drove up to Rochester to visit, Bill became seriously ill with pneumonia, so circumstances kept me away for a while.) Kathy is now living with her granddaughter, Sonja, as her recovery proceeds. She’s mostly walking without a cane, working on continuing her recuperation – though she’s done so well, her therapists discharged her and told her to keep up the good work.

What a difference! The improvement is marked and wonderful. There’s still a lot of healing going on, but with so many good vibes in a healing blanket, made with love by so many hands, how can she do anything other than continue onwards and upwards?

Standing to the right of the quilt - there's Kathy. She's even using her right hand... way to go!