Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Finally feeling like a Holiday Season

Yes, I admit it, I have been slow to get into the holiday spirit this year.  Perhaps it is because we haven't had any snow.  We do live in Minnesota where we would normally be shoveling out from under at least a couple of snowstorms by now.  Today it rained all day!  Patrick and I did finally put up our tree indoors and added lights and a tree to the deck outside the dining room.  I do love the sparkly lights this time of year.  It is already dark when I come home from work and I sit at the dining room table and enjoy the sparkle!  It helps. 

But today was the best.  We had the whole day with our kids.  This just doesn't happen anymore.  Like many of you, I'm sure, our kids are grown and out in the world on their own.

Our oldest, Joseph finished his Master's degree this past spring and is now living and working in Miami, Florida.  He is not able to get back very often but is here for the holidays.

Our daughter, Celia, is living here in the metro but has a place of her own and is in school full time.  She is very busy, working hard in school and though we see her regularly it is always short and sweet. But her semester is over and she is on break.

Patrick and I could both get time away from work so we recruited the kids to help with Christmas cookies.  It was so nice just to be together and made me quite nostalgic.   We made the mega batch of cookies, Sand Tarts.  They have been a tradition in Patrick's family for many years and are a perennial favorite.  We also made a batch of fudge and mixed up the dough for two kinds of cookies that now have to be chilled overnight before baking.  Quite productive!

But the best part was just being together.  We will have more  time together over the next two weeks before the kids have to get back to their responsibilities.  I still have some shopping to do and I haven't wrapped any gifts yet.  We hope to get to Nebraska to be with our extended family over the Christmas weekend so our days will be filled.  It made me treasure this very special family time today and made me feel lucky to have these two amazing young people in our lives.  They make us so proud everyday. Hug your kids whenever you get a chance.

I did finish a project on the loom in the last couple of weeks.  These are small table runners that match coasters that I made earlier this fall.  They are done with a cotton rug warp yarn and used denim strips as filler weft.  I love the look and feel of these materials and this particular pattern called Inspiration threading is also one of my favorites.  The grouped warp sequences lend themselves to so much variation, it is endlessly inspiring.

I hope you all have time with the people who are special to you during these holiday times, whatever form your holidays take.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

How can it be dark already?

Well, now that we have set our clocks back an hour this weekend my body clock will be all messed up for a week or so!  The clock here in the kitchen says 9:50 but I am wide awake and not nearly ready for bed.  There is no use fighting it, I might as well stay busy for an hour or so rather than tossing and turning in bed trying to sleep!  I know I will feel it in the morning when the alarm rings at six!  Aargh

I have spent most of my daylight hours this weekend trying to get caught up on photographing my work.  I am terribly behind so it was a must -do task at this point.  I haven't really devised a method for inventory,  product description and efficient photography for my Etsy products yet.  I feel that I am always just rushing to keep up and never really feeling in control.

I take most of my photos in my dining room using the wood floor as a background.  I also use a pretty white vintage linen piece as a backdrop for small pieces.  So each photo session is a production of dragging out these accessories and various props and getting the light just right and crawling around on my knees arranging things.....I feel quite unprofessional!  Of course, I am a non-professional photographer and I'm afraid it shows in my photos.

This sheet of poster board helps even out the light.  But my window of opportunity for good lighting  is short.  I keep meaning to do more reading to improve my photos but other tasks call more loudly!  I would rather be weaving or knitting.

On Nov. 1 this past week I took this picture of my "nearly wild" roses blooming away next to the drive in the front yard.  November 1st in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Roses! Amazing!

I have been enjoying this extended beautiful autumn weather.  I will be sorry to see the snow and cold arrive though we know it will.  I hope the winter is short, mild and less snowy than our 88 inch snow total of last year.

I just keep reminding myself, spring will come again and so will the roses . . . . . .

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Thinking in haiku. . . . . .

About six months ago something got me thinking about haiku.  I know very little about the form other than the 3 line syllabic pattern of 5 - 7 - 5.  But my interest had been peaked and it seemed to set itself into my imagination.  I began to write some haiku in a very free flowing, non-scholarly way.  It was just for fun.

I wrote these as they presented themselves and copied them into a notebook of their own, dating each one or each group.  The subjects are mostly daily activities, family events, memories, feelings . . . . all very personal, none very deep!

After some time of writing these I went back and read them as a group.  They had become very journal-like and had a certain cohesiveness.  Though still very light-weight, some speak nicely to things of importance to me.  I like what has happened with these.  There is definitely something of me in the collection.  I share some at the risk of ridicule but remember, I do not claim to be a poet!

Some examples of the light hearted:

April snow showers
Disquise the approaching spring
So May will startle.


A weight goal in mind
Favorite foods and mochas
Replaced by pretzels.


Not a party girl
Love the idea of it 
More than the event.

An example of one written about work, these sometimes reflect my frustrations:

Do you see the sun?
My workday is fluorescent
Years of seasons gone.

I recently read a short piece by Jane Hirshfield called The Heart of Haiku about the Japanese poet Matsuo Basho, famous for his haiku poetry.  Indeed some of the examples of his work are breathtaking.  The Japanese haiku form differs from the English and certainly does not translate into the 5 - 7 - 5 syllabic pattern.  But it is amazing what a poet can do with so few words.  Just the very essence of an idea!

A Basho haiku:

The cicada's cry
Soaks into stone.


Even in Kyoto, 
Hearing the cuckoo,
I long for Kyoto.

I love these.  Sparse, but so powerful.

This whole exercise feels as though it has stretched  an unused part of my mind.  It has opened me to a different kind of creativity.  I feel that stretching like this makes me more receptive to new ideas in general.  I will never be a famous poet but it has been enlightening and fun.  And I am still writing haiku but I promise I won't inflict any more of my poems on you all.

I encourage you all to try your hand at a poem or two.  Maybe haiku or another form, just try it . . . . you will be surprised at the results.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

More about denim . . . . .

As promised in the past post, here are the finished denim coasters.  This is one of my favorite threading on the loom, a grouped thread pattern that holds many possibilities for variation.  I like the way these turned out and I was able to enjoy weaving outdoors for this whole project.  Not many of those days left here in Minnesota!

Are you hooked on denim, too?  Have you noticed that it seems to be ever-present in our lives?  I begin to get a little nervous when my favorite pair of jeans get a little too worn looking.  Admit it, you do, too!  In most of our family photos, one or more of us are wearing blue jeans.  Jeans are worn to every event or gathering except the very most formal.

You can buy denim bags, denim home accessories, denim jackets, skirts, jumpers, shirts, etc.,etc.,etc.  Of course denim has been around and used in these ways for many years.  There is nothing new about any of that.  But it is amazing how timeless it is!  We just keep reinventing it, updating it and pushing the denim envelope (I bet someone makes those too)!

I have been inspired by denim in the past and have tried my hand at a variety of projects.  There is always a ready supply of used denim to be upcycled!

This rainbow warp woven with recycled blue jeans was done some years ago.  One length of this was made into a bag that now belongs to Celia.  This remaining piece has never been transformed into a finished product but still makes me smile.  It is bright, but soft and well-used feeling - a flashback to my hippie days?

Celia was inspired to patchwork this piece of denim fabric together.  Someday she will decide what the perfect use is for this pretty blue cloth.  Isn't it charming?

Celia and I put together lots of denim pockets.  These have fabric backs that flap over the front and
can be decorated with fun closures and added handles or straps.  We had lots of fun with these.

Of all the styles of bags that I have made from denim scraps, this type, with patterns machine appliqued on the front panel, is one of the most fun to make.  I actually have one more that I am working on now.  Never have enough bags!

These placemats were woven years ago, used frequently and are soft, faded and yummy.  I guess that is  one of the things we all like about denim - it just gets better with age.  That is certainly one of the reasons I keep working with it.

All of these past projects have made me a bit nostalgic for the days when Celia was here and we had time to create together.  Lovely memories.  Perhaps there will be time for this again.  I'll keep collecting  denim, just in case.

Enjoy your favorite blue jeans!  But don't panic when they need to be replaced - save them and make something fun.  

Monday, September 26, 2011

Old blue jean inspiration . . . . and a Give-away!

I have been inspired by the idea of recycling denim jeans for many years.  When I was weaving full time I trimmed out mountains of blue jeans and cut miles of denim strips on my rotary cutter.  I have not woven many denim items in the last couple of years.

But this summer I was inspired to get out the bottomless box of denim pieces and my rotary cutter.  I spent an afternoon or two in the screen porch cutting strips.  Dusty job!

I have woven a couple of new batches of denim coasters on my four harness table loom.  I love to use this out in the screen porch when the weather cooperates.  The warp I am weaving off now is done in "inspiration threading", an old favorite.  It is a grouped warp threading and lends itself to many variations. I will post photos when I finish them.

These plain weave coasters were completed this summer in the screen porch.  I am still drawn to the texture and variation of color in the way these strips weave up.

These  coasters are being featured  in a giveaway from Michele Paley on her blog, Michele Made Me.  Michele has featured denim projects of her own design and those of various guest artists during the month of September.  It is a wonderfully fun collection of work and sharing !  Please take a look at all these posts - very creative projects and talented craftspeople.  And you might win one of the give-aways!

Visit my Etsy shop to see my denim items now and I will be adding more soon including coasters and runners in the inspiration threading.

I feel at least one more post about denim recycling to come .  .  .  .  .

Friday, September 9, 2011

Paper (fiber!) Love

For months now I have been captivated by a couple of origami patterns.  I am addicted to making these box sets.

My family and friends save safety envelopes and recycled paper of all types for me!  Part of the satisfaction of making these little cuties is that they are all upcycled materials.

Even the buttons come from the vintage and salvaged buttons in my ever-growing collection.  I cannot resist a button and none are too common to be discarded!

Then, as I mentioned in an earlier post to this blog, I got started folding paper cranes for The Brain Injury Association here in Minneapolis.  This was a huge success for them and has caught on with some other chapters around the country.  Check your local chapter to see if they have started a drive in which you could get involved.  This was quite spectacular - approximately 140,000 paper cranes!

Folding the paper cranes was just too much fun to stop.  I combined the crane with the little boxes to make this "Little bit of Luck" box.  Fun, fun!  

My daughter, Celia, brought an outdated Minneapolis city map book so of course, MAP Boxes!!  I'm not sure where all this box folding will lead but there are seemingly limitless paper options and oodles of ways to embellish the folded product so it could go on and on and on and. . . . . .

(P.S.  These are all available in my Etsy Shop)

Friday, August 5, 2011

Serious summer fiber fun!

We finally have had some beautiful weather here this summer mixed in between all the early cool and rainy days and the long stretches of blazing hot humidity! But I guess most of you around the country have had a taste of all these, too. We have struggled to maintain our gardens, the veggies have suffered the most. This just won't be a banner year for the produce from our backyard. We have moved into the orange and yellow flower phase in the perennial beds and it truly looks like August and you get a hint of fall edging closer already!

I really have been playing and working with some fiber projects this summer despite how my last two posts have sounded. This is my recently finished pair of hand knit socks. Knit from a very soft yarn called Melody from Jojoland, they are very comfy and though 100% wool I am sure I will need to wear them sometime soon!

Because it never feels right to be without a pair of socks in the works I have now assembled a long list of favorite sock yarns from various shops on Etsy for my next project. Now it just remains to narrow the list down to a reasonable number that won't break the bank! If you knit socks you should search for sock yarns on Etsy, the selection is amazing!

The summer scarf is finally complete and I love the way it turned out. It is light and airy but at the same time it has a cozy feeling - all good characteristics for a scarf! I have woven with this yarn before and because it has both colored flecks and a nice textured slub it really results in beautiful fabric surface. My photos do not do it justice! I need photography HELP!

This is a cuff that started with a white wool felt oval. The next step was crocheting the base and band from a lovely natural colored linen. I love the two natural fiber colors together. You just can't go wrong combining these!

Now all the little bits of color are chosen and all lined up. I have some small bits of wool, some sewing threads that just speak to me and beads and buttons that will bring it all together.

I hope I can translate the sketch and the embellishments into the piece that I have imagined! It is such a satisfying feeling to complete a project, even a small one.

I have been writing haikus this spring and summer (more about that on another day) and this is one that I wrote about my need to "make".

To be, I must make.
Shaping the things around me
Is just what I do.

Please allow yourself to "MAKE" to your heart's content!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Guilty Pleasures

In my last entry here I made some excuses for my lack of attention to this space. I think I made a pretty good case based on my busy schedule, garden demands and general spring fever. Any of you are welcome to use these excuses yourselves! However, today I have to admit to a guilty pleasure that has perhaps taken up some of my weaving time.

Daughter, Celia, has been enjoying a summer reading list, challenging herself to read some classics, try some books that she might not normally choose herself and just enjoy those lovely summer reads that we all love. Oh, and doesn't that sound nice! Summer and immersing yourself in books! Yes, yes, I was sucked in.

I finished The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver. This book was a gift from Pat, Celia's partner. A good read and I am a big Barbara Kingsolver fan! I also really, really enjoyed Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. It was a very engaging story in a captivating setting. I now have reread an old favorite after Celia read it for the first time and fell in love with it. Pride and Prejudice, of all things, is her new absolute favorite. I could not put it down although I have read it more than once in the past!

Now I have taken up Storms of My Grandchildren by James Hansen, nonfiction about climate change and our part in it all! Lots of technical stuff - very interesting but slow reading in order for me to absorb it. It is important and revealing on several levels.

My list is long for the rest of the summer. It includes:
Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
The End of Faith - Sam Harris
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - Jonathan Safran Foer
Let the Great World Spin - Colum McCann
Bossy Pants - Tina Fey
The Bell - Iris Murdock
We Need to Talk About Kevin - Lionel Shriver

Some of these are recommendations from Celia, some from other friends and some call to me from the Amazon book store site. And the list changes and gets longer daily!

Because I am feeling bookish I am going to try (once again) to read 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It is the all time favorite book of husband, Patrick and both kids, Joseph and Celia. I have started it at least once before and given up after 60 or so pages. They insist I need to try again so this might be the time. I'll let you know.

Have these books drawn me away from my fiber work? Well, I'm at my day job 9 hours a day. So I have limited hours left just like everyone else so yes, realistically, I'm reading instead of weaving. But it's summer!! Come on, grab a good book and ENJOY. . . . . . . !

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Excuses, excuses!

Can I say that I have been caught up in so many whirlwinds of activity that this blog has been ignored too long? I am sorry for that. It has been on my mind, really! I have had much happening in my personal and family life.

The big event this spring was our son's graduation. Joseph earned his Master of Music degree from Yale. We flew to New Haven, CT. for his commencement which was quite spectacular! We are so proud of all his hard work and passion for what he does.

We also helped him move out of his apartment and drove the moving van back to Minneapolis. He is storing his stuff in our garage until August when he moves to Miami, FL. He has accepted a fellowship position as oboist with the New World Symphony. Congratulations, Joe.

But all this busy-ness is an excuse that doesn't quite cover the lack of activity here. I have felt a bit of malaise in my fiber work. Maybe it is spring fever. Yard and garden work have been distractions and my thoughts are often in those spaces rather than the weaving studio. I have not finished the scarf that has been on the loom since early May. It is nearly done, if I get any points for that.

It is not that I have done Nothing! I have knitted a pair of socks since I last posted here and a couple of brightly colored, simple dishclothes. I have been making new origami box sets and collaged stickers that will be in my Etsy shop soon. These are enjoyable summer paced projects. I guess I am just feeling guilty about not producing more and not writing here! I should just stop that - - the guilty stuff, that is!

I am resolved to get back to my yarns and looms. Several sketches and weaving drafts are waiting for execution. But, it is June and the weather is promising and we have baseball tickets and the swimming pool is inviting!

What can I say? . . . . . . . I'll do my best!