Saturday, December 29, 2012

Family and Holiday Update

Hurray, I am happy to say that Mom is much better.  Her recovery from the flu has been slow but the doctor and common sense says that is to be expected when you are almost 80 years old.  She promises us that she is taking it easy, not trying to do more than the basics and resting as much as possible.  Over the phone she sounds stronger. Dad and Mom enjoyed a fun Christmas celebration with my sisters and their families.

I still have not been able to make the trip to see them in Nebraska.  What with weather issues (snow & wind), work and holiday travel schedules, the drive has not been possible.  I plan to go as soon as we have a weekend that promises safe driving conditions.  Patrick will go along and we will celebrate a belated holiday with them.  Hoping that can happen soon.  

Our holiday season here in Minnesota has been perfect.  Joseph arrived the Wednesday before Christmas and flies back to Miami tomorrow morning, Sun. Dec., 30.  We managed to schedule a cookie baking day with Celia here, too.  We ended up baking 4 of our "must-have" Xmas cookies: Sand Tarts, Smor Kringlers, Spritz, and Candy Bar Cookies.  I will add these to my recipe pages in case you all want to try these Swedish favorites.  ( Candy Bar Cookies - not so much Swedish!)
Christmas eve here was a warm, cozy, and low key family evening with Patrick, Joe, Celia and Jake = wonderful!  And Maxi, the dog, had a great time with all his people here.

 We hope all of you had your favorite kind of holiday, too!

Friday, December 7, 2012

A very nervous, helpless day.....

Just a brief posting about my horrible, no good, very awful two days of feeling useless.

By way of some background, I live in Minneapolis, MN and my elderly parents live in a small town 6 hours away in Nebraska.  I have three sisters who live within 30 miles of my parents' home so I am the odd one out.  Mom and Dad are struggling these days with a variety of age and health related issues.  The primary factor in their story now is that Dad has Alzhiemers and is at a stage where he still knows all of us but he is unable to carry out any tasks and requires much assistance with all things day to day.  My mother is his primary caregiver but has health issues of her own that are slowly wearing her down.

I'm sure many of you recognize the bones of this story - aging parents who need help from their grown children who have busy lives, jobs, kids and grandkids of their own, separated by distance - all the things that pull at families at this time in life.

Well, this week Mom had a bout of stomach issues, a bug perhaps that left her dizzy, weak, unable to eat or drink much - but still needing to care for Dad.  I know she was scared, what would she do to feed him, keep him safe and take care of herself.  My youngest sister filled me in and when I called I could hear the fear in her voice. And this is the week that Minnesota weather decided to kick into winter.  Forecast of blowing snow, 4 to 6 inches, not something you can safely drive in across the wide open southwest corner of the state to go to Nebraska for the weekend.

My sisters all took over and took turns being with the folks.  They called the doctor, cajoled Mom into eating and drinking as she could.  They cooked, cleaned, and spent the night with them. But I felt helpless and useless and nervous here.  The distance between my house and theirs feels very far at times like this.  I know everything is being done that can be done but I still wish to be there just to see for myself, to talk to them face to face and to hug and be hugged.

I hope tomorrow will be a bit better.  I will talk to Mom, I hope she will sound stronger.  I know she will feel comforted by my sisters' attention. And I will tell her how much I love them both.

Monday, November 12, 2012

A bonus day in the studio......

A weekend of cold rain and a first little dusting of snow kept us indoors.  Feeling just too cozy, Patrick and I did not finish the fall clean-up as we had planned.  It is a task that really needs to be finished before serious snow flies but the weather was not cooperating.  The bonus, of course, was that I took advantage of the wet weather on Saturday to spend the afternoon in the weaving studio.  

I had a set of log cabin placemats waiting to go onto the loom.  This is one of my long time favorite patterns which I have used many, many times.  I have made runners, both long and short, placemats, coasters and even some rugs.  Sometimes I use rags for the weft filler like this runner above, but these new placemats will be woven with a creamy, white cotton rug filler - very Scandinavian looking!

This very traditional warp-faced threading is 30 ends per inch and can be laid out in varying width blocks in the warp and weft to create endless variations.  These mats will be patterned with a stripe and block border along both the ends and the sides, creating a solid color block in the center.  The bonus of log cabin weaving is that the colors are reversed on the back side giving you two different colorways!  I will post photos of these when they are complete.

Threading 30 ends of yarn per inch through 12 inches of heddles and a 15 dent reed in the beater can be a daunting task.  My neck and shoulders get sore and my tri-focals are a focusing tricky- wicket!!  So I have learned to break up the task with filling the shuttle spindles, winding the cotton filler onto the boat shuttles and a coffee break or two.  But it is, oh, so satisfying to get a warp like this tied onto the loom, ready to weave.  What a great afternoon!

I did also have a little time to play around with some paper collage - some fun stickers.  And the never-ending, always intriguing boxes . . . . .more map paper cut to size for folding, black and white recycled envelope paper cut for the "take-to-work bag" to fold at lunch breaks.  Then I put together white cardboard trays for the box sets and made an adorable "Cheerios" tray that just screams to become the first of a graduated size set!  Yes.

Not a bad day's work!    Garden clean-up . . . . . . another day.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Fall fiber work . . . . .

I have been playing with a messy project on my old spinning wheel.  It should be a project for outdoors or at least the screen porch and that is where I started it.  But the screen porch is filled with the outdoor furniture, tucked away for the approaching winter and the spinning has to move indoors.  

I am spinning newspaper. This appeals to the recycle/reuse side of me and is an interesting experiment in readily available materials. 

The plan is to weave this into paper mats when the spinning is done.  Any suggestions for warp?  I am thinking a grey-brown colored linen would look good with the newspaper color . . . or a black linen.  Someone suggested crocheting baskets or freeform pieces, also very intriguing.

I cut these strips by hand, no measuring, as I don't mind a little thick and thin effect.  The colored portions of the paper have a nice look in the finished spun product, creating interest and adding some warmth.  It is not a soft yarn, definitely a little stiff and obviously will not be very durable.

There is a great deal of drag on the spinning wheel and because the yarn is very stiff, at times, it has to be "helped" onto the spindle.  It is also very dirty - grubby black fingers from the ink, so I am sure the wheel will need scrubbing when this project is done.  But all-in-all it is very satisfying to create something out of a throw-away material.  I will let you all know what this yarn inspires!  

I am starting another project on the table loom - denim coasters with a blue and brown warp, a nice fall into winter colorway!  These coaster sets will make their way to my Etsy shop.

So it is back to some evening fiber work.  I will miss the long days of summer but it feels good to snuggle in and get my hands back to work at the wheel and loom. 

. . . . . .and I do love the fall. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Fading into fall . . . . . .

Time flies, cliche I know, but damn it, time does fly.  This summer that just began is already waning.  The days are transitioning from bright and colorful to softer, quieter colors, hints of shorter days to come.         

The vegetable garden is past its prime production.   

My babies are amazing young adults.  And Patrick and I both celebrated 61st birthdays --- really, time flies, sometimes at warp speed.

A walk through the park on the beautiful first day of September was a reminder of the fleeting unknowns of life.  My eyes were drawn to a brown, dried leaf falling from a tall tree.  It drifted ever so slowly, gracefully floating down to a gentle ending to its life.  It struck me what a perfect metaphor for the end of life this was.  This leaf was not buffeted by winds, pelted by rain or shredded by a hail storm.  It just let go and drifted to its end.  That is an ending that most of us would choose if we could, the ending we might wish for - - no wind or rain or hail - -  no disease or disaster or dementia, just a gentle floating through to our quiet ending.  Seasons come and go, as do we all.

Fall has always been my favorite season.  I will try to relish all it offers and not look too far ahead to the cold winds of winter.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Hot time, summer in the city . . .. .

What a summer!  We, too, have been engulfed by the heat here in Minneapolis as so many parts of the country have been.  This is unusual for us here in northern lake country but we have been trying to muscle through without too much whining!

We had a great break from the city heat island in June when we spent a week at Big Rock Resort on Leech Lake near Walker, MN.  We had four cabins on the lake shore with members of my extended family.  The group included my 79 and 83 year old parents, two of my three sisters, their husbands, our daughter and her beau, nieces, nephews, and even great nieces and nephews. Whew!  We enjoyed sitting on our decks, watching the birds, the boats, the lake and the kids.  The fishermen in the bunch had great luck which equaled a good time for them and a fish fry for us all! 



Closer to home, we are just getting to the end of a big home improvement project. This is mostly exterior work that we have postponed over the years . . . new windows, doors, siding, replace the deck and screen porch . . . a great facelift for our little ranch style house that has been our home for twenty + years.  It looks like a new place and makes us feel pretty spiffy.  (Oh, you know spiffy feels good!!)



Now our part of the work begins - lots of gardening, window treatments and interior trim painting, oh, and painting the screen porch.  No complaints though - we feel so lucky - and we will enjoy it with friends and family for many years to come!

Summer has not been very productive in my fiber world.  I have my "to do" lists written but my "excuses" list has been longer.  I accomplished bits of knitting on a new pair of socks and maintained my supply of origami box sets but summer's distractions have won out!

I do miss the structure and fulfillment of having projects in the works.  I beat myself up - - lazy! unorganized! unfocused!, etc. when I can't get going on a significant project.  This month I should be black and blue!  But then on the other hand, I know it all works better if I wait for inspiration and follow the muse.  Maybe my muse just likes cooler weather . . . . . . 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Spring has sprung . . . . again!

Beautiful, subtle spring time blossoms make me hopeful.  Just hopeful in general and for no apparent reason, other than that spring blossoms exist again.  I love that resilience in us all, that we believe in spring coming every year.

I am gathering some spring-like weaving for my Etsy store.  This yellow and aqua cotton runner would look wonderful with a bouquet of the service berry blossoms from the photo above!

And this rag table runner has the colors of the swimming pool in the backyard, the pool not warm enough for swimming yet, but promising none the less.  It always makes the backyard come alive when the cover comes off of the pool and the aqua colored water sparkles in the spring sunshine.

I have this cotton runner in the shop stack, but I am not sure if I can part with it.  It is my handspun cotton yarn woven with a commercial warp. Then I embroidered a freeform pattern in a running stitch with the thread variegated down the length of the piece.  I am very attached to it!  Maybe because it speaks of spring to me also!

The soft colors and delicate blossoms of spring are soon gone so enjoy them while you can!  I will be trying to absorb as much as I can.  Summer is just around the corner. . . . . .

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Simple pleasures

I have recently had a couple of three day weekends that provided a good reminder of how wonderful it feels to have some blocks of time to spend in my work space.  What a luxury to just work undisturbed by the constraints of a normal workweek.  I could get used to having that kind of schedule on a regular basis!

I spent one afternoon cutting and folding lots of my origami boxes.  I really needed to do this and it is such a relaxing and satisfying activity that the time just melted away.  Nice, nice, nice.

It is fun to see these little things build up.  Now I will put together sets and sew buttons.  Which reminds me that I need to go shopping for buttons soon.  Yes, I have tons of buttons (my family would say!) but I use lots of little white shirt buttons and lots of black and white, of course.  And, OKAY, I don't need much of an excuse to look for more buttons!

I have been wanting to refresh my memory on knitting cables so I found an appropriate yarn in the scrap stash and practiced a 4 x 4 cable.  It was an easy big gauge on comfortable needles and knitted up quickly.  I knitted it to 6 inches, bound it off and then crocheted across the end and made two loops for buttons fasteners.  Almost an instant mug cozy!  Cute, isn't it?

I have been meaning to show this addition to my worktable - a gift from daughter, Celia - a most adorable pincushion!  It is made by KupKup Land , so sweet!  And fun - it has re-arrangable parts!  Almost too precious to use.

The azaleas have bloomed and gone already, but the cool temperatures have prevailed and spring is still at bay.  Hopefully we will be gardening soon, but until then I am enjoying the quiet simple pleasures in my work room.  Hope you are finding time for the same.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Old patterns and cozy evenings

I pulled out a very old pattern from my weaving binder for my latest project on the 8 harness loom.  I wanted to revisit a scarf that I used to weave often, but haven't done for a long time.  I always have to pat myself on the back when I can actually find my hand written project sheets and notes from a long ago project.  Hurray!

Documenting project process is a habit I am glad I was taught and pursued most of the time.  I do wish that I had added notes of the results more consistently because as the years pass these are not always clear in my mind.  It would also be wise to photograph weavings before you sell them or give them away.  I do this now but did not in my early years of weaving.  Wish I had!!

This is a "lace" weave of sorts but obviously in a bulky version.  I am doing this brown and purple scarf in cotton chenille.  I know it looks rather open and loosely woven on the loom.  But once it is woven, it gets a finishing handwash, the yarns shrink and everything fluffs and tightens up.

As I mentioned, I have done this pattern in the past and in many different yarn combinations but always in yarns that do some shrinking and I have always loved the results.  There is a bit of the unknown involved but that is part of the fun!  I will try to remember to post a picture of the end product - before and after the shrink/wash.

I am just finished with a cowl knitted in sock yarn following a pattern given to me by Shawn Glidden of Acme Knits.  I met her at one of my favorite fine craft shows this winter.  Her booth was filled with beautiful knitting and she generously shares this cowl pattern on the back of her business card!  I couldn't resist trying it.  The pattern calls for one skein of sock yarn but I had a mix of two leftovers that I liked together.  I added the loop and button because I like a snuggly fit.  The little pattern detail is charming and I love the way it turned out.  And so, so cozy.  Thanks Shawn!

I am trying to resist the urge to start a jigsaw puzzle.  I always want to get lost in a big 1000 piece beauty when the weather is cold.  But then I am obsessed until I finish it and I usually draw Patrick in also. . . . . and we get absolutely nothing else done!  But as we know,  I am so weak . . . our evenings may be filled with puzzle pieces in the very near future!

Fill your evenings with your favorite cozy activity and enjoy.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Sending wallhangings out into the world . . . .

 I am adding some of my larger scale pieces to my Etsy site this week.  I discovered that I have mixed feelings about this! Why?  These are always rolled up on top of the storage tubs that hold all my runner and placemat stockpile.  I have never really had a place to hang these since I closed my studio space at our shop.  We cannot even really enjoy them in any real way.  I just have trouble letting go.

I love creating these large wallhangings.  They feel like a real commitment to your craft when you are in the midst of them.  They were always a statement when they were displayed in the shop and I always  like imagining where people hang these when they are purchased.  I do the same thing when folks take home a runner or placemats but a wallhanging feels like a bigger commitment on their part also and chances are they aren't just tucked away in a closet.

I really love the colors in this blue piece and I have already listed this in the shop.  My heart feels a little tug when I think of it selling and going away.  Silly, I know, especially because at the same time I love the idea of this weaving having a place in the light of day, bringing color and texture to someone's home decor.  What can I say?!!

I also know that I am not creating large scale works right now for a variety of reasons.  But maybe moving these weavings will inspire me to explore something new.  Change is good!