Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Year's Resolutions!

My husband is renovating my studio during his time off from work between Christmas and New Year. Lucky me!
We were certain that there was humidity behind the walls in my basement studio. The humidifier seems to run all year 'round, I often feel groggy after working down there for any length of time, and I have just the slightest inkling that some of my migraines occur after spending time down here. So it was no surprise to find moldy, damp cement when Bob cut the walls away yesterday. YUK!!
And, of course, my stuff is a mess! There was no place else in the house to move my looms and other equipment and stash, so we just crammed it into the rest of the room.

Here Bob is jackhammering a French drain to help with the moisture situation. To cut down on dust he's dexterously using one foot to guide the nozzle of the shop vac so most of the dust was whisked away!

Today's progress: walls freshly painted with dry-loc! Tomorrow Bob will build the vapor barrier, and then get started on putting studs up for the new wall, which will come out past the French drains. There will be a shelf where the old walls end and the new walls join. More places for me to put stuff!

I will need to pick out new flooring soon!

So what are my resolutions for the New Year? Stay tuned....right now I need to get off the computer!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Let the Holidays Begin

This is a wall hanging I did about a decade ago. It's 24" x 36" and hangs in my red kitchen all year long. I had never taken a photo of it until recently when someone asked to have some directions written for doing boundweave....
Guess who finished the nasty Christmas stocking today? That requires some celebrating!....so I immediately grabbed the most luxurious yarn I could -- "Sublime" cashmere/merino/silk -- and began knitting the "Fetching" fingerless mittens by Cheryl Niamath from the summer '06 issue of knitty.com.

Little progress made on any tapestries, but the most has been done on this one. I'm ready to start working on Rob's hand. Challenging!

Time to make the cookies and the toffee and wrap some presents.... it's almost Hannukah, Christmas, Saturnalia, and, best of all, the Winter Solstice! Let's all give a howl!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Merry Ho! Ho!

Well, aren't there a LOT of demands on every one's time this month! Why would I be any exception....

Yesterday was the annual sheep party of a group of weavers in which I am a lucky member. There are only 10 of us, probably due to the burden of buying any more than 10 sheep gifts! I was the hostess this year....and the sheep presents were awesome!....as was the food and the company!

Here's my favorite sheep

And here's the funniest sheep, unshorn and shorn!

I am reluctantly knitting a Christmas stocking for my new daughter in law. I got the Ann Norling pattern years ago because I always wished my stocking was the nutcracker. My stocking is a snowman, made by my mother in law, who wanted me to have one just like the ones given to her children by their maternal great aunt. She also knit them for my two sons when they were born, but I believe we are the only family members who got them. Lucky indeed!.....until now, when I have to keep up this family traditon and make one for our newest member. Did I mention that I hate intarsia? Making myself work on this thing has been torture. I think I'd rather have a root canal. So much for the adorable nutcracker! I can't stand him now! Anyway, it's still not finished, although anything else with twice the work would have been done before Thanksgiving. I think I started the hateful thing around Hallowe'en, thinking it would be done in a week. Ah....I'd forgotten just how much I hated intarsia since I haven't done that technique in almost 20 years when I made Kaffe Fassett's "Jack's Back" and hated every minute of that!

So, every moment I work on anything else is loaded with guilt. I have now blown by two dates when I was supposed to deliver the stocking. I have knitting rage when I work on it, and that's really not good. In fact, I fear I am polluting the world with bad knitting karma every time I touch the thing. I'm not sure I can give it away full of such bad vibes. Hmmm....

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What's going on here?

I just returned from a six day trip to San Francisco, where I indulged in a trip to Art Fibers and Britex, along with the typical sightseeing: the seals on Pier 39, Union Square, Chinatown....

Dyeing with weld has been on my mind since early summer when I realized my second year plants were going to flower. This is my first attempt at dyeing weld. It was a multi-day process. First I chopped up the dried branches from plants that I harvested back in July. Immediately after covering them with water I realized I meant to cut the branches into much smaller lengths, like 1" - 2" lengths, but it was too late! Sometimes I wonder at my lack of ability to concentrate! The color I got after simmering the weld did not look promising, like weak tea. I let the pot cool and sit for a couple of days and then heated it to a simmer again. I never did let it boil, and both times I simmered for only about 1 hour. I strained off the liquid from the plant material, gave the plant material a good pressing to extract all the liquid I could before disposing of it. The dye liquor was an unappealing dark tan. In went the wet yarns, most of which was my handspun romney and one 250 gram skein of fingering weight Palette from Knit Picks. This simmered one hour for a very awful tan. I then let the yarns cool in the pot and sit overnight for a second try the next day. Still very boring tan. I then resorted to my very expensive, $37/oz. powdered weld from Earthues. I had one ounce which I dissolved in a small amount of water before adding to my dye pot. The color got darker, but no better. Back in with yarn to simmer for about an hour. The color of tan got considerable darker and had an olive tinge to it. I still hated it!

I then consulted the internet on weld dyeing and what could be done to shift the color. The recommended additives were ammonia or sodium carbonate. I opted for ammonia since I could get that locally. I do wish I'd taken a 'before' photo! I removed the yarn from the dye pot in order to 'glug' in some ammonia, and the color change was instant and shocking! When I added the yarn it also changed right before my eyes to something quite lurid! It's a lot more yellow now, but that olive cast is still there, making for a bright "French's" mustard with an olive tinge. I rather like it! It's certainly shocking.

I'm looking forward to over-dyeing with indigo, though this time I will only dip my little 1/2 oz. skein for a test before submitting all my precious handspun to what could potentially be a really nasty color!

I'm thinking about how to write up what I'm doing with my 'Cardigan for Arwen,' but can't seem to make myself sit down with the graph paper to document my changes. I'm much more of a design-on-the-needles knitter, who struggles to then document what has already been done....

I bought some silk/mohair (76 % silk, 19% mohair, 5% merino) called Sylph at Art Fibers and had to immediately start working on a Clapotis. I was knitting everywhere in San Francisco, and obviously not paying attention well because I've now come to the fourth set of dropped stitches and those stitches won't drop all they way to the bottom. It appears that I did a k2tog quite a fews rows down that is interfering with the dropping. I discovered this last night at almost midnight, while watching tv since I couldn't go to bed when my body was still on West Coast time. I threw the whole mess into one of my knitting bags and hope not to think about it again too soon!

In the past couple of weeks I have worked on both the historical tapestry and H. Rob, but with no real progress to show for it. Baby steps are better than nothing though, and I have also done a small sample for my Hudson River Quadricentennial piece. Slow and steady.....

I do not understand why certain photos get sideways when the original was not!

Can you see here that I've drawn in the shape of the boat that will get woven next?

Ah, and I've just remembered that I promised an article to my study group at Complex Weavers....so I'll sign off now to take care of that!

Monday, October 20, 2008


This year I spent two days at Rhinebeck, quite a luxury! The first day I shopped like a fiend, and the second day I enjoyed the events, like sheep dog trials, the sheep to shawl, the vendors selling local cheeses and wines. The highlight for me was the sheep to shawl:

Second to the sheep to shawl would be the sheep dog events, like the trials and the frisbee events! Those dogs are fast and smart!

Isn't this a great hooked rug? Definitely worthy of a blue ribbon!

alpacas, and a suri alpaca!

Vendors: I loved Gita Maria, who was new to the show this year! She makes wonderful cloissone buttons and jewelry. I bought three pendants which I hope to use as zipper pulls on sweaters and vests. One will go on my Arwen Cardigan (sans hood) which I will write about momentarily, and one is for my teal green handspun wool/mohair vest which is still a changing design in my mind. The third pendant I just had to have, and maybe it will actually become a necklace!

Yarns International had an amazing display of Fair Isle sweaters. I was truly mesmerized and couldn't leave their booth, even though I was in no position to make a decision on buying a sweater kit at that moment. I have too many things in queue, several which have deadlines in the next several months....but it was so hard to tear myself away. I ended up in that booth again on Sunday, struggling to tear myself away again!

Homestead Heirlooms makes their own leather handles for purses and bags, in lots of colors and styles. Their booth was full of knitted, felted bags that showed the handles to great advantage! This was another booth in which I could have bought everything! They are the answer to my unfulfilled dream of making woven purses, like I've admired at Avoca (from Ireland) in Annapolis. I can't wait to do something toward this! Meanwhile, I bought a pair of bright fuscia handles to knit a small felted bag for a friend for Christmas!

There were several booths with natural dyed yarns, but the one that appealed most to me was a woman from Waldoboro, Maine, named Jody McKenzie (yes, I did a double take, reading her name as Judith!). Botanical Shades is the name of her company, and she does beautiful hand painted yarns in natural colors as well lovely solids. I have a very tempting dream now of visiting her next summer for a day of dyeing under her tutelage when we are sailing in Maine. I hope it happens!

I bought a Golding spindle, some lovely autumn colored 50/50 alpaca/silk top, some Icelandic lamb roving, and several books. When I arrived at 10am on Saturday, I went straight to The Fold's booth only to discover that the line for their sock yarn was already winding around the corner and serpentining through all the open space in the main aisle! I wanted a spindle, and since they hadn't brought any this year, I could walk away! Whew!

The other highlight of the weekend for me was having people compliment my newly finished Icelandic Lace Shawl On Sunday, I heard someone yell, "Hey! Icelandic lace shawl woman!" And I turned to find a woman trying to catch up with me. She was from Viriginia, and she pulled out her partially finished shawl so we could both 'ooooo and aawww!'
(why is this photo coming out sideways...it's not this way in my files)
I should mention it seemed to me every one in three women was wearing 'Clapotis.' Looked positively lovely on some people and awful on others. It was nothing to do with the knitting....I guess that design is really meant for the svelte, so perhaps I will shelve my plans to knit it!

Lastly, I returned home Sunday evening to discover that one of my favorite scarves had sold in my etsy shop! It's been a wonderful weekend!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Back to Work....

Here are a couple of things I do when I procrastinate from weaving. This shawl is wonderfully relaxing to knit. Yesterday I spent the entire day knitting this while sitting on my front porch listening to the rain and watching it fall, and smelling the last of warm summer weather.
And this project should start progressing again, now that I've dyed some more silk with which to knit the border of the shawl. The body of the shawl is knit from my handspun which was hand painted by the Silk Worker. I knew there would not be enough for the whole shawl, but figured I'd cross that bridge when I got there. The pattern is Swallowtail by Evelyn Clark, published in IWKnits. It's a super simple, but very beautiful design, so it's become my favorite for shawls that will be given away. A friend of mine with excellent color sense recommended I try lavender for the border of the shawl. I'm not sure my attempt at logwood will fill the bill, but if I don't think it's compatible after spinning I'll just over dye with either more logwood, or perhaps cocchineal or indigo...or both. I left plenty of undyed white space in this bit of top so that the lavender would be pale when spun. I have a feeling it will be too pale!

Lastly, I need to write up some notes and do some graph paper work on my version of the Cardigan for Arwen (IWKnits, winter 2006) which I'm knitting up in Katia Scotch Tweed. I knitted the back and one of the front/sleeve sections which forced me to make all the design decisions. Now there's just that last front/sleeve to knit and no reason to do so!....except that maybe I'd like to wear it someday?.....

Friday, September 12, 2008

Vacation Perspectives

It's my first day home from our late-summer vacation, sailing in Maine for the two weeks following our son's wedding. It was a wonderful time to relax and be out of touch, quiet, letting all the busy-ness of this summer (our younger son's graduation and move into Manhattan for grad school, as well as our older son's wedding) subside and filter into memory. I always find that vacations are when I take stock of my home life and make mental adjustments on where I want to go and how to get there! I slept a lot, ate wonderful food, and gave a lot of thought to the the designs I'd like to pursue for future tapestries.

My tapestry group (The Wednesday Group) are working on tapestries with a common theme of the Hudson River. Next year will be the quadricentennial of Henry Hudson's trip up the river, and since we all travel along and across this river each time we meet we all agreed to do something to commemorate this historic anniversary. I spent a couple of months thinking about images of tug boats, the wonderful colors of red and black against water and sky....then I played around with images of lines (meaning ropes) and how delightfully textile they are which seemed so compatible with tapestry. After all my mental wanderings, I have settled on a study of water itself. It was a seminal part of all my other ideas, and suddenly I felt that it was the one crying out to be heard. So although I was not sailing on the Hudson, I did take lots of photos of water and have some idea of what I'd like to do. The group has some simple guidelines that should make our pieces somewhat compatible to hang together as an exhibit. We'll work in sizes that are a multiple of 6" x 8", and we'll all use two specific colors of blue in any proportion we choose. I'm going to start designing now that I'm home, and I'm planning on working at 12" x 16". I'm enthusiastic about getting started!

I did just a the smallest bit of work on my Pre-Columbian study....not enough to even photograph yet. I had brought lots of yarns in colorways that I think of as Pre-Columbian: various shades of cocchineal, mustard golds, and the natural shades of alapacas. But when starting to weave I realized I wanted to include some green, and I didn't bring any! I also decided I wanted to add just a hint of something representational to my geometric design. It would have been helpful to look online but we rarely had internet service where we sailed, and when we did it was torturously slow. So I'll spend some time next week looking at Pre-Columbian imagery and deciding on some kind of little animal or figure....or decide against it!

The routine of my days sailing was very conducive to contemplation so I did get a lot of thinking done while we were away. I slept later most mornings than I do at home, and my first activity on rising was usually knitting or drawing. I never get to do that at home! I think I spent between 3 and 6 hours a day doing hand work, depending on how challenging the sailing conditions were. But it's still a great deal more than I can manage at home most days. We often sail to uninhabited islands where we take walks and take photos and sometimes gather interesting materials. I have seen so many different mushrooms, lichens, seaweeds...if only I could figure out how to set up a dye pot in our tiny galley!

There are no chores for me on the boat. My husband does all the sailing single-handedly, and he does all the boat chores. I often cook dinner, but he makes both breakfast and lunch and cleans up from all the meals. So it's pretty much like being at a resort where I'm coddled and cared for....except that sailing is certainly a lot rougher than resort living! It's an odd balance.

This is the Olson House, well known from Andrew Wyeth's painting, "Christina's World." This is the field in which Betsy Wyeth modeled for the paining. I was so happy to visit this place! Just behind where this photo was snapped is the little cemetery with Christina's grave (yes, I have a photo of that too), and in this field we saw an amazing, and creepy!, spider in her orb web with a freshly caught moth. That photo haunts me! I'm sure I'll use it here sometime!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Wedding!

Well, I've never seen guys so excited to be at a wedding! My older son, the groom, is in the middle, surrounded by his closest friends, the groom's men, of which the one on the far left is my younger son. All great guys!

What an incredible moment, watching our son take his first dance as a husband. A very dear friend took this photo from behind us....thank you, Pat!

The wedding was almost as emotional as the day Rob was born! I had a lot more fun at the wedding, though!

And this is another photo from Pat. It's the bouquet I carried down the aisle along with our place card for the reception. One week later I'm still on a great high from this event!

Sunday, August 17, 2008


Scallopini is done! Part of me thought I was nuts to attempt to complete a sweater while getting ready for my son's wedding, and part of me thought it might just be the thing to save my sanity while getting ready for the wedding! As it turns out, neither was quite right! I have not even been close to losing my sanity, and there's been plenty of time to enjoy making this cute cardigan! Thank you MinnowKnits!

I've tidied up the gardens this weekend after being in Maine for a couple of weeks. This activity was not just for my own enjoyment, although I've enjoyed sitting outside two nights this weekend watching the gardens fade at dusk and glow in the light of candles after dark, but also in preparation for the UN-rehearsal dinner we will hold on Thursday evening. The resort where the wedding will take place does not allow time/space for rehearsals, yet we still wanted to have a gathering of everyone involved in the wedding party. So 30 people will be here to kick off the wedding celebrations! After an 18 month engagement, it's really hard for me to believe that the wedding takes place this week! I have butterflies!...not from worries, just from sheer excitement!

I will give this little sweater to my niece at the UN-rehearsal dinner, along with her strand of pearls, her gift for being the flower girl. One Sunday afternoon a few weeks back the bride and I made pearl necklaces and earrings for all the females in the wedding party. This is Madison's.

Let the fun begin!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Summer Vacation

When I left for this year's vacation I had visions of writing blog entries, even without photos, to share all the experiences right as they occurred. Didn't happen! My time on the computer was terribly limited, and even though the ever present urge was there, I did realize it was better to enjoy the great outdoors!

For over a decade now our summer vacation has been sailing in Maine. We've spent most of that time in the Penobscot Bay area. This year we started a bit west of that, in Booth Bay. We'll be back in early September for two more weeks of sailing, and we may take time then to better explore Casco Bay.

This year's trip was the coldest we've experienced, and it rained every day except two! And when I say rain I mean torrents some of the time. It's not easy being on boat in the rain. No matter how big the boat is (and while ours is not huge it has grown somewhat over the past 30 years) rain makes everything feel damp....clothing, bedclothes, the upholstered settees in the main cabin....all damp...and cold!

I brought three knitting projects, some beautifully dyed mohair top for spindling, and my smallest copper pipe loom set up with a four-selvedge warp for trying a little Pre-Columbian historical study. I did not weave at all. We spent long days sailing, and I can only weave at anchor. I did spend a lot of time knitting, so I was able to complete the cute Minnowknits Scallopini sweater for my niece. Photos to follow soon, I hope! I spent maybe 20 minutes, total, spinning. Still, I could not have gone sailing without the potential for working on these projects. I left the pipe loom and weaving yarns on the boat for when we return in September. Surely, I'll be more successful then....

Almost every morning I drew for a while, and I did a lot of thinking about weaving and thinking about a design for a Hudson River tapestry to commemorate the quadricentennial.

The highlight of the trip was stumbling on an acquaintance from New Jersey who brings his wife's horses and a carriage even (!) to Mt. Desert each year. He invited us to go for a carriage ride! The carriage is a beautiful piece of workmanship, hand made by Amish craftsmen in Pennnsylvania. It looked like a carriage straight out of Jane Austen, and I need to find the appropriate name for this kind of vehicle. It was a beautiful day (no rain!), and we drove through the the Rockefeller carriage trails to Long Lake where we stopped for lunch near a scenic view with a boat house. I still can't believe it really happened.
(Well, checking Wikipedia leads me to call this a Phaeton, although Jane Austen speaks of curricles and gigs as her choice of sleek, light carriages with two wheels pulled by two horses. I need to do more checking.)

To get to Maine, my husband did a Category 2 Ocean race called the Lobster Run with a crew of seven. He spent about eight months getting our boat ready for this kind of race, and he was happily repaid with a wonderful second place trophy! Our older son was one of the crew.

Now that we're back home, we have a little over one week to get ready for that same son's wedding. I'm in a constant state of happy excitement now! For over a year now the wedding has been something that has required planning, discussion, dreaming, but actually it didn't feel REAL.....now it's about to be a reality!